Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

2012 Activities

January 30, 2012

How does Education Affect Health? Or Does it?

For more than a century, and after literally thousands of research studies, scientists concerned with health inequalities are still debating the role of education and whether the observed relationship is spuriously due to other factors. What is the role of education? What is known about the spurious components of its relationship to health?

Reading: “The Education Effect on Population Health: A Reassessment”, by David P. Baker, Juan Leon, Emigy G. Smith Greenaway, John Collins, and Marcela Movit, (June 2011) Population and Development Review, 37, 301-332.

Discussant: Duane Alwin

February 27, 2012 –

How Do We Study “Linked Lives”? Dyadic, Triadic, and Group Dynamics

The most influential events in our lives are commonly shared. Birth, marriage, employment, friendship, and caregiving are just a few examples of interdependent relationships that shape the trajectories of multiple actors over extending periods. Understanding these dynamic and linked processes places additional demands on theory and methods. How do researchers approach the complexity of interdependence, what have we learned, and where do we go from here?

Reading: “Resilience in Midwestern Families: Selected Findings from the First Decade of a Prospective Longitudinal Study”, by Rand D. Conger and Katherine J. Conger. 2002. Journal of Marriage and the Family 64: 361-373.

Discussant: Diane Felmlee

March 26, 2012

Are there Common Problems and Common Strategies in Life Course Analysis?

Regardless of the topic of research, or the stage of life investigated, there is a range of conceptual, analytic and interpretive issues that life course researchers share in common. These include selection and mortality processes, the detection of distinct life pathways, the study of multiple sets of within-person change (or trajectories), and event-centered time structures. In this session, we’ll discuss a range of methodological issues related to life course research. A focus on individual drug use highlights the promises and challenges facing the area.

Reading: “The Life Course Perspective on Drug Use: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Drug Use Trajectories”, by Yih-Ing Hser, Doublas Longshore, and M. Douglas Anglin, (2007) Evaluation Review 31, 515-547.

Discussant: Derek Kreager and Michelle Frisco

April 30, 2012

Conceiving the Life Course—Can We Develop a Common Framework?

Glen Elder, one of the contemporary pioneers in the development of the life course perspective argued that “a number of concepts have been applied interchangeably to lives (life course, life cycle, life history, and life span), but each makes a distinctive contribution that deserves notice in mapping this domain.” Can we develop a common discourse in the study of the life course? Is it possible to integrate varieties of life course concepts?

Reading: Article: “Integrating Varieties of Life Course Concepts”, by Duane F. Alwin, (March, 2012) The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 67B, 1-15.

October 5, 2012

What’s Up with Population Aging?

Sometime in the relatively near future, the human species will reach a watershed moment in which people over the age of 60 will outnumber children. This is a world in which there are both low birth rates and declining death rates at all ages, and in which people live much longer than has ever been true in the past. These profound trends demand new knowledge on the social forces and factors that shape the life course. This workshop will focus on the main theories of population aging and the research issues facing life course researchers who focus on later life.

Reading: “Looking Forward to a General Theory on Population Aging,” by Jean-Marie Robine and Jean-Pierre Michel, (2004) Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 6, 590-597.

Discussant: Tetyana Pudrovska

November 5, 2012

Emerging Adulthood: Is there a new Life Stage?

The transition to adulthood has preoccupied life course researchers for several decades, but recent trends in American society of delaying marriage, parenthood, full time work, the lengthening of schooling, and generally putting off the emergence of “adulthood,” suggest that “a quiet revolution” is taking place for young people. Is there truly a “new life stage” developing in American society? Or, does it merely represent greater heterogeneity in lives? This workshop will focus on the issues surrounding the development of these patterns in the United States, and how the life course perspective helps us understand the challenges, uncertainties and possibilities of emerging adulthood.

Reading: Chapter 1 from Coming of Age in America: The Transition to Adulthood in the Twenty-first Century, edited by Mary C. Waters, Patrick J. Carr, Maria J. Kefalas, and Jennifer Holdaway. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2011.

Discussant: Jeremy Staff, Associate Professor of Sociology

December 5, 2012

The Accelerated Longitudinal Design: What’s in it for YOU?

Many longitudinal studies include multiple birth cohorts. In longitudinal studies conducted over a comparatively short interval of time – a few years – it is possible to address some critical issues that may not be possible with other types of designs. For example, one issue that arises involves the question of “convergence” between cross-sectional and longitudinal patterns of “aging” (or age), and the potential of any design to separate these effects and test for critical differences. This workshop focuses on the conceptual and methodological issues of separating the effects of cohort and age within the accelerated longitudinal design.

Reading: “Tests for Linkage of Multiple Cohorts in an Accelerated Longitudinal Design.” By Yasuo Miyazaki and Stephen W. Raudenbush (2000), Psychological Methods, 5, 44-63.

Discussant: Duane Alwin, Professor of Sociology

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