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Hitlin, Steven & Elder, Glen H., Jr. (2006). Agency: An Empirical Model of an Abstract Concept.. Macmillan, Ross (Ed.) (pp. 33-67). Amsterdam: Elsevier JAI PRESS.


Agency is a core life course principle that represents individual influences within structured pathways. Discussions of agency are rarely related to empirical indicators. We offer an empirical model that joins together previous treatments of agency and adds a subjective sense of one's life chances (“optimism”). Using nationally representative data, we present a series of models supporting this construct's measurement properties and utility for predicting social psychological and behavioral outcomes. Our model represents how social actors understand their own skills as well as their life chances and take both into account as they construct their life courses within constrained options.


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Book Section

Year Published


Series Title

Advances in Life Course Research


Hitlin, Steven
Elder, Glen H., Jr.