The Transformation of U.S. High School Seniors’ Life Goals, 1976-2010: Social Origins, Global Consciousness, and Cohort Effects

Jasmine Trang Ha, University of Minnesota
Phyllis Moen, University of Minnesota
Teresa Swartz, University of Minnesota

This study investigates the transformation of US high school seniors’ life goals from 1976 to 2010. The findings, based on repeated cross-sectional survey data from a national representative sample, suggest that recent cohorts of high school seniors have higher expectation for markers of adulthood developmental goals that are work- and family-related as well as non-marker goals that concern altruistic, intrinsic, and exploratory values of life. We also find patterns of variation by social origin, with race, class, and gender playing an important role in shaping the structure of aspirations and prioritization of different life goals in one’s imagined future. Global consciousness, defined as perceptions about the world and its changes, is also significant in predicting the structure of life goals desired by high school seniors.

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Presented in Poster Session 9: Children and Youth; Data and Methods