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Shanahan, Michael J.; Elder, Glen H., Jr.; & Miech, Richard A. (1997). History and Agency in Men's Lives: Pathways to Achievement in Cohort Perspective. Sociology of Education, 70(1), 54-67.


People make planful decisions about school and work, but structures of opportunity both constrain and enable pathways to achievement. What is the role of planful competence in times of social change? Drawing on data from the Stanford-Terman sample, the authors examine the role of history and adolescent planfulness in the attainment of men who were born between 1904 and 1917. Men born between 1904 and 1910 avoided the labor markets of the Great Depression by extending their higher education; adolescent planfulness was of little consequence for their adult educational attainment, since they stayed in school irrespective of their planfulness. However, men born between 1911 and 1917 faced viable options between school and work, especially in the postwar economy; for these men, adolescent planfulness was a strong, positive predictor of educational attainment. These findings are compared with insights from the 1962 Occupational Changes in a Generation data set, a nationally representative sample.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Sociology of Education


Shanahan, Michael J.
Elder, Glen H., Jr.
Miech, Richard A.