Life Course Research: Theoretical Issues, Empirical Applications and Methodological Problems Karl Ulrich Mayer Sociological Methodology Workshop Series Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan September 20-24, 2004 Outline of Sessions I. Life Course Analysis as a Research Program II. Introduction to Event History Analysis III. Event History Analysis: Basis Models IV. Life Course Data: Exploratory Data Analysis V. Historical Changes in Life Course Patterns VI. Career Mobility and Labor Market Analysis VII. Family Formation and Social Demography VIII. Research Design, Measurement and Data Collection IX. National Differences and Institutional Conditions Session 1: Life Course Analysis as a Research Program Outline Introduction to Life Course Analysis Concepts The вЂњArchaeologyвЂќ of Comparative Life Course Sociology Life Course Time Paths Event Structure of the Life Course Life Course and Social Change: Time Scales and Mechanisms The Basic Model of the Sociological Explanation An explanation of the depth correlation of protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism Life Course and Social Change: Prototypical Questions A Preliminary Definition of the Research Domain (Introduction to Life Course) Assumptions and Tenets Counter-Assumptions: Heuristics or Testability? Proto-Typical Questions of Life Course Research вЂ“ The Example of the Transition to Post-Communism in East Germany Interlude Introduction to Life Course Analysis The Paradigm of Life Course Research: Origins, Approaches, Assumptions, ProtoTypical Questions Life Course вЂњTheoryвЂќ: Macro-Contexts and Micro-Processes Measurement: Prospective and Retrospective Survey Designs and Methods of Data Collection Data Analysis: Exploratory and Explanatory Event History Analysis Substantive Research Applications: e.g. Life Courses in East German Transformation, Gender, Social Class and Family Formation, Education, Training, and Labor Market Entry Concepts life life span aging human development ontogenesis, phylogenesis life cycle population process cohort succession life history life story biography autobiography life design life planning life review age groups age differentiation life phases life stages curriculum vitae life script life course life events transition passages trajectories life curves careers family cycle residential history educational tracks The вЂњArchaeologyвЂќ of Comparative Life Course Sociology Life Cycle/Life History (Thomas/Znaniecki) Human Development (Erikson/Clausen) Age Stratification (Riley) Generation (Mannheim) Age Differentiation (Eisenstadt/Parsons) Biography (Bertraux) Life Course (Elder) The Tripartite Life Course In the Work Society (Kohli) Cohort (Ryder/Easterlin) (Welfare) State General (Mayer/MГјller) Differential Life Course Time Paths Event Structure of the Life Course Life Course and Social Change: Time Scales and Mechanisms The Basic Model of the Sociological Explanation Social Situation Collective Explanandum (d) (c) (a) Actor Action (b) Source: H. Esser (1993): Soziologie. Allgemeine Grundlagen. Frankfurt am Main/New York: Campus, p. 100. An explanation of the depth correlation of protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism Protestant Ethics Spirit of Capitalism (d) (c) (a) Familial Socialization (b) Achievement Motivation Source: Coleman, James S. (1990): Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, MA/London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, pp. 6-10. Life Course and Social Change: Prototypical Questions A Preliminary Definition of the Research Domain (Introduction to Life Course) By the term LIFE COURSE RESEARCH we denote an interdisciplinary program of theory and research which emerged during the last 25 years in the US and Western Europe. The objectives of this research program are the description and causal explanation of individual level life outcomes and macrosocial processes in a common conceptual and empirical frame of reference. By LIFE COURSE RESEARCH we thus mean the study of social processes extending over the individual life span or significant portions of it, especially the family cycle (marriage and child rearing), educational and training histories, and employment and occupational histories. The life course is shaped by, among other things, economic opportunity structures, cultural beliefs about the individual biography, institutionalized sequences and roles and positions, legal or conventional age restrictions, and decisions of individual actors, processes of socialization and selection. The goal of LIFE COURSE RESEARCH is not only to provide better descriptions and explanations of the processes shaping the life course, but also to link these together. LIFE COURSE RESEARCH is an important and indispensable instrument for studying societal change and differences between cohorts (generations). Life courses are here understood as units of social structure rather than as changes of individual personalities (individual development). LIFE COURSE RESEARCH is interdisciplinary since it breaks down and transcends long held disciplinary boundaries. It covers a domain formerly treated by demography, microeconomics, social history, sociology of the family, education and labor markets, social stratification and mobility, socialization and psychology. Assumptions and Tenets (1) Social structure is conceived as interrelated elements of varying duration, not as a crosssection of positions. (Linton 1939; Mayer 1986) The life course is an element of social structure that is a product of institutional and historical forces, organizational processes and individual action. It refers to socially patterned, i.e. institutionalized trajectories not to individual biographies. Life courses are historically emergent structures based on individuals as autonomous actors as against collectivities. Life courses must be considered within the context of the collective histories of birth cohorts. Inter- and intra-cohort competition and selection are important population-level shaping life courses. (Featherman 1986) Life course research is multi-level analysis. It needs to relate individuals, families, organizations, cohorts and national societies. (Blossfeld 1986; Mayer/Huinink 1990) Life course research is multi-time analysis. It refers, among else, to age, duration in social positions, durations of organizational membership, historical time, exposure times, etc. These distinctions need not only to be made conceptually, but must also be incorporated in formal models for empirical tests. (Featherman/Petersen 1986) The life course is not identical with aging. Age norms and age groups are secondary rather than primary determinants of the life course. Chronological age is not a good indicator of the life course. Assumptions and Tenets (2) Psychological development and biological growth and aging should be seen as independent mechanisms which only partly condition the life course. Life course research is multi-life domain analysis. Events and trajectories within a single life domain, such as the family or the labor market, usually cannot be explained without references to events and trajectories in other life domains. Life domain specific sociologies, like the sociology of the family, the sociology of work and occupation construct misleading less than useful boundaries. Single events or life phases cannot be adequately understood in isolation (like marriage, divorce, youth, adulthood, old age) but must be studied in the context of the prior (and future) life course, as outcomes and consequences of earlier conditions, events and experiences. The life course constitutes an endogenous causal system. Life time is an important resource and constraint. Timing of life events is often highly consequential. The life course has more and less 'sensible phases'. Being 'off time' or 'on time' with regard to either statistical or social norms may have effects with regard to duration of exposure, time left for other activities, perceptions of relative success or failure. (Hogan 1978; Marini 1984; Rindfuss et al. 1987) The life course of an individual is a self-referential process. The individual handles himself or behaves on the basis of his accumulated experiences and resources. Life history in all its dimensions is involved with each actual action and decision-making process without committing one or the other. Counter- Assumptions: Heuristics or Testability? (1) Social structure is best conceived as a fairly permanent form of social organizations which persist while human beings flow through positions and roles. The life course is almost fully the product of individual action, it is not, like social positions, subject to institutional regulation. The life course from birth to death via reproduction is a universal feature of the human condition, it is not subject to historical change. Differences between cohorts are neither constitutive nor consequential for life courses. All life course dynamics concentrate on the individual level and endogenous processes on that level. Little is to be gained by introducing other levels, very much in analogy to organic growth and psychological development. Age is the overriding time dimension in the life course. Other time dimensions are not very important. Counter- Assumptions: Heuristics or Testability? (2) Life course and aging are identical concepts and processes. Chronological age is a good indicator for position in the life course. Life domains are institutionally well-separated. They follow their own logics and do not impinge on each other. Life cycles are domain specific, such as the family cycle, occupational careers, residential cycles. Each life event, life transition or actions across the life course can be understood situationally as such without the context of the prior life course. They have intrinsic meaning and constitute a self-contained set of rules and norms (rites de passage) or action patterns. All life stages or phases are equally important and consequential. Being 'off time' or 'on time' with regard to either statistical or social norms has no effects with regard to duration of exposure, time left for other activities, perceptions of relative success or failure. Proto-Typical Questions of Life Course Research вЂ“ The Example of the Transition to Post-Communism in East Germany (1) In which way and to which extent do societal macro-institutions - the educational system, the labor markets, the welfare state - shape and influence individual life courses, i.e. family formation and dissolution, education and training paths, employment trajectories and occupational careers, status and income changes across the life? How do macro-developments and historical conditions constitute and impact individual and collective life histories and in which way are these impacts conditional on age, life stage or cohort? Which importance have biographical resources and prior experiences on later life course outcomes? Which mechanisms account for continuity or discontinuity? How do specific life course adaptations and patterns aggregate back up as a motor in the formation of societal structures and institutions? How do they shape social inequalities and specific problem arenas for social policy? What are appropriate life times for social policy intervention? How do major institutional differences, such as the one between a welfare -capitalist society and a socialist party regime and command economy - shape both the private and public lives of individuals? Proto-Typical Questions of Life Course Research вЂ“ The Example of the Transition to Post-Communism in East Germany (2) In which way did the party-state policies of total ideological and material control shape individual lives? Which professed goals were attained and which were the unintended effects? In contrast, what are the specific manners in which the private economy and Western welfare state measures provide a framework of life courses? In which way will the institutions of East Germany be changed: by dissolving institutions, by shifting persons or by socializing persons? How will the stratification and class system be transformed institutionally and personally? Will the old privileged be the new winners according to a resource model? How will family structures change under the impact of transformation, the re-shaping of power relations between men and women, between parents and children? The questions show that the analysis of the life course is not something like a combined sociology of youth, middle age and age. Its significance has little to do with age norms and issues of individual development? And the subjective biography? In contrast, it concerns processes and linkages between individual action, family convoys, cohort membership, institutional arenas, cultural development and historical conditions. Interlude Up to now we have defined the questions for LIFE COURSE RESEARCH, a research program, just a conceptual frame or theoretical guidelines. How do we get the answers? Which answers have already been found? This requires - procedures for data collection procedures for data organization methods of data description and exploration theory construction and formal models methods of data analysis and estimation re-integration with existing theory and knowledge Finally: Is it worth the efforts, costs and complexity?