The Changing Transition to Adulthood: Leaving and Returning Home

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Frances Goldscheider & Calvin Goldscheider

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  • Understanding Families

    Series Editors:

    Bert N.Adams, University of WisconsinDavid M.Klein, University of Notre Dame

    This book series examines a wide range of subjects relevant to studying families. Topics include, but are not limited to, theory and conceptual design, research methods on the family, racial/ethnic families, mate selection, marriage, family power dynamics, parenthood, divorce and remarriage, custody issues, and aging families.

    The series is aimed primarily at scholars working in family studies, sociology, psychology, social work, ethnic studies, gender studies, cultural studies, and related fields as they focus on the family. Volumes will also be useful for graduate and undergraduate courses in sociology of the family, family relations, family and consumer sciences, social work and the family, family psychology, family history, cultural perspectives on the family, and others.

    Books appearing in Understanding Families are either single- or multiple-authored volumes or concisely edited books of original chapters on focused topics within the broad interdisciplinary field of marriage and family.

    The books are reports of significant research, innovations in methodology, treatises on family theory, syntheses of current knowledge in a family subfield, or advanced textbooks. Each volume meets the highest academic standards and makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of marriages and families.

    Multiracial Couples:

    Black and White Voices

    Paul C. Rosenblatt, Terri A. Karis, and Richard D. Powell

    Understanding Latino Families:

    Scholarship, Policy, and Practice

    Edited by Ruth E. Zambrana

    Current Widowhood: Myths & Realities

    Helena Znaniecka Lopata

    Family Theories: An Introduction

    David M. Klein and James M. White

    Understanding Differences Between Divorced and Intact Families

    Ronald L. Simons and Associates

    Adolescents, Work, and Family:

    An Intergenerational Developmental Analysis

    Jeylan T. Mortimer and

    Michael D. Finch

    Families and Time:

    Keeping Pace in a Hurried Culture

    Kerry J. Daly

    No More Kin: Exploring Race, Class, and Gender in Family Networks

    Anne R. Roschelle

    Contemporary Parenting:

    Challenges and Issues

    Edited by Terry Arendell

    Families Making Sense of Death

    Janice Winchester Nadeau

    Black Families in Corporate America

    Susan D. Toliver

    Reshaping Fatherhood: The Social Construction of Shared Parenting

    Anna Dienhart

    Problem Solving in Families: Research and Practice

    Samuel Vuchinich

    African American Children: Socialization and Development in Families

    Shirley A. Hill

    Black Men and Divorce

    Erma Jean Lawson and Aaron Thompson

    Romancing the Honeymoon: Consummating Marriage in Modern Society

    Kris Bulcroft, Linda Smeins, and Richard Bulcroft

    The Changing Transition to Adulthood: Leaving and Returning Home

    Frances Goldscheider and Calvin Goldscheider

    Forthcoming:

    Families and Communes:

    An Examination of Nontraditional

    Lifestyles

    William L. Smith

    Copyright

    View Copyright Page

    Dedication

    To Ben and Franny

    List of Figures

    Preface

    This book places changes in leaving and returning home in the context of the major events of 20th century-America. The timing of the departure of young adults from the parental home, the routes taken out of the home, and the patterns of returning home are major elements of the transition to adulthood and are key links to changes in our society and changes in family relationships. The United States has moved between peace and war and between depression and affluence, and each has made its mark on the family and the nest-leaving process. By examining the historical patterns of moving out of, and returning to, the parental home, we observe and assess changes in relationships not only between parents and children but also between men and women, given the importance of marriage as a route out of the home.

    The transition to adulthood via residential independence is a complex phenomenon, negotiated between parents and maturing children. In part, it is about whether marriage should be the primary criterion for adulthood and residential independence or whether young people should leave home even when they have not achieved adult economic and family statuses. Leaving the parental home to establish an independent residence also reflects more than the location of educational institutions, the demands of military service, and the importance of distant job opportunities. It reveals core values about the centrality of new family formation in the lives of young adults and about whether unmarried adults have a place in their parental families. No matter the route, the decision to leave the parental home to a home of one's own requires a realignment of intergenerational relationships and a reassessment of family priorities.

    Patterns of leaving home have been changing over the 20th century. The age at which young adults leave home declined substantially between the 1920s and the 1970s before beginning a partial recovery. The routes taken have shifted even more, with a major decline in the proportions leaving home at marriage or to take a job, a dramatic rise in the importance of military service that made this route critical for young men for 30 years before falling to insignificance, and a long-term increase in leaving home just for “independence” as well as the recent rise in nontraditional family formation—cohabitation and unmarried parenthood. The likelihood of returning home has almost doubled over the same period. Historical changes in leaving and returning home therefore point to important changes in the relationships between the generations. We link these changes in the transition out of the nest to the critical periods of change in American society, focusing on the periods in which young people reached adulthood (age 18).

    Using data from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), we have retrospectively constructed patterns of leaving and returning home. We have been able for the first time to study the nestleaving process in historical context. We systematically trace changes in leaving and returning home from the 1920s to the 1990s, examining (1) the Roaring Twenties and the movement from rural to urban areas in search of jobs, (2) the economic depression of the 1930s and the struggles with unemployment and financial hardship, (3) World War II and the mobilization of young adults for military service, (4) the post-World War II period of prosperity and baby boom, and (5) the Vietnam war years and the period of the “baby bust.” We conclude the analyses of cohort changes with a portrait of the emerging patterns of the 1980s and 1990s, when the “20-somethings” and “Generation X” are experiencing diverse transitions to adulthood, increasingly returning to the nest after a period of independent living.

    We examine the timing of leaving home and identify the routes out of the home for each of these periods over the 20th century. We are therefore able to document the distinctiveness of the most recent period when young adults have become more likely to leave home for “independence” than for any specific reason. We are able to create detailed connections between returning home and both to the routes taken out of the nest and to the ages when young adults leave. These links are examined for each of the periods that we have identified to provide a full portrait of leaving and returning home in 20th century America as a prism through which we are able to assess changes in the transition to adulthood.

    Our historical perspective allows us to link changes in this aspect of the transition to adulthood to sweeping external changes in the economy, education, religion, race, and ethnicity. However, processes of leaving and returning home are also responsive to internal changes within the family and to the complex transitions involved in the twin agendas of adulthood—the achievement of stable and satisfying work and family roles. In our unfolding analysis, we demonstrate the importance of family values and the financial and noneconomic dimensions of the lives of men and women. One master theme that we explore in depth connects changes in the transition to adulthood to powerful family changes now ongoing in American society. In particular, we examine how changes over time in young people's experience of their parents' divorces, remarriages, and the arrival of new siblings have affected the processes of leaving home—accelerating its timing, refocusing toward the less productive routes taken out of the parental home, and decreasing returning home.

    While investigating these general patterns for the nation as a whole, we also recognize that America is a diverse society. We systematically document how the transition to adulthood differs between young men and women; among Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites; between religious groups; and among those with different social class backgrounds and living in different regions of the country. We are thus able to connect the transition to adulthood to the major revolutions in gender patterns, changes in American race relations and ethnic assimilation, secularization, regional redistribution patterns, economic and educational changes, and the emergence of the middle classes. The critical question we address is how the broader changes in American society in the 20th century have differentially characterized the diverse family patterns in America as reflected in the transition to adulthood. Our historical perspective allow us to investigate the characteristics of innovators and followers in the leaving-home process and the general tendencies toward convergence in these patterns among diverse groups over time.

    We began this project shortly before the NSFH data became available, making plans while on sabbatical in Jerusalem in 1988–89. Pieces began to emerge as we traveled to Santa Monica, California; Stockholm, Sweden; and even Lake George, New York, yet always returned home to Providence, Rhode Island. Some of the threads that are the bases of the specific analysis that we present here appeared in outline form in the Population Reference Bureau Bulletin titled “Leaving and Returning Home in 20th Century America” (Goldscheider and Goldscheider 1994b). Over the last several years, we have used the opportunities of the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association and the Population Association of America to present some of our findings to fellow researchers and colleagues. A paper prepared jointly with James Hodges and Patricia St. Clair on “Living Arrangements Changes in Young Adulthood: Evidence for the Twentieth Century” was first presented in 1994 at the RAND Conference on the Family and Public Policy in Santa Monica, California (Goldscheider, Goldscheider, Hodges, and St. Clair 1994).

    Several of our analyses were published for limited circulation in professional journals. Some of the materials in Chapter 9 are drawn from an article on “The Trajectory of the Black Family: Ethnic Differences in Leaving Home over the Twentieth Century” that appeared in the Journal of the History of the Family (Goldscheider and Goldscheider, 1997b). A portion of the comparative review in Chapter 11 was first presented in “Recent Changes in US Young Adult Living Arrangements in Comparative Perspective,” in a special issue of the Journal of Family Issues, edited by Cherlin, Scabini, and Rossi (Goldscheider 1997). Other materials in that paper appear in Chapter 1. The technical comparisons of the data from the National Survey of Families and Households and the Census appeared in a study with Ann Biddlecom and Patricia St. Clair, “A Comparison of Living Arrangements Data in the National Survey of Families and Households and the U.S. Censuses, 1940–1980” (Goldscheider, Biddlecom, and St. Clair 1994). Aspects of our analysis of the role of family structure in nest-leaving were published in French as “Family Structure, Leaving Home, and Investments in Young Adulthood,” in Cahiers Quebecois de Demographie (Special Issue on Childhood) (Goldscheider and Goldscheider 1994a) and other aspects in an article in the Journal of Marriage and the Family (Goldscheider and Goldscheider 1998). An early version of the section in Chapter 10 on the Jews was published as “Generational Relationships and the Jews: Patterns of Leaving Home, 1930–1985,” in Papers in Jewish Demography, 1993, Proceedings of the Eleventh World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem (Goldscheider and Goldscheider 1997a).

    The volume as an integrated whole, however, is entirely new, as are the specific analyses in most chapters. The richness of the empirical details on historical family changes and the analysis of changing rates of returning home are unique features. These themes are presented as part of an integrated, theoretical argument that structures the details. Our analyses of runaways and those who stay at home, changes over time in the regional variation in leaving and returning home, and of the changing role of education and resources, gender, religion, race and ethnicity make this volume a comprehensive treatment of these dimensions of the transition to adulthood.

    The analysis of the data was supported by the National Center for Child Health and Human Development, particularly Grant P50HD12639 to the Labor and Population unit of RAND and to Brown University and Grant P30HD28251 to Brown University. The final editing of the manuscript was facilitated by the continuous and generous research support provided by Brown University and our appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Population Studies and Training Center. We are particularly grateful to our colleagues at Brown who have been supportive of us and our research. We acknowledge the contributions of Patricia St. Clair of RAND for superb data organization and processing; to James Hodges formerly at RAND and currently of the University of Minnesota for statistical advice. At the Population Reference Bureau we want to acknowledge the helpful contributions of Carol De Vito and Mary Kent. At RAND where we first started the analyses for this project and at Brown when we completed them we want to thank our colleagues Julie DaVanzo, Jacob Klerman and Michael White. We acknowledge the contributions of our colleagues, as well as those of the editors of this series at Sage of which this volume is a part, David Klein and Burt Adams. David and Burt read over our manuscript with care and with attention to detail. They made valuable suggestions, which resulted in revisions of our draft and in a better book. We are grateful to them. The final formatting and preparation of the text, figures, and tables for publication was carried out by Joan Picard of the Department of Sociology at Brown University with her customary skill, patience and superb talent. We are most grateful to Miss Rhode Island's mom.

    We dedicate this volume to our children and their growing families, particularly to Benjamin and Franny, who have entered the nest while we were working on this volume and who, along with their parents, aunts, and uncles, have contributed to the joy of our lives. We look forward to sharing their nest-leavings and returnings in the 21st century.

  • Appendix: Studying Nest-Leaving in 20th Century America

    Our study of leaving and returning home in the United States over much of this century was made possible by the data collected by the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH). This survey has transformed the study of the nest-leaving process, as it has many other dimensions of family life, by providing information on leaving and returning home for people who came of age over a broad range of time periods and also about the characteristics of their families and their own histories of family formation, work, school, and military service. It is unlikely that we will ever obtain better data for studying changes in nest-leaving in the 20th century.

    These data have made this study as rich and authoritative as it is; many other studies on this subject are possible. More could be done, even on the questions we address here, as we will indicate below. Nevertheless, like all data sets, the NSFH has limitations as well as strengths. In this appendix, we describe the data and discuss the measures we constructed from the questions asked. We outline the methods we used to study leaving and returning home and how these processes have changed, so that both their strengths and limitations are clear. We also present a set of reference tables that are the sources of many of the simple figures that appear throughout the text.

    The Data: The National Survey of Family and Households

    The National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) was carried out in 1987–1988. The NSFH was designed at the Center for Population and Ecology of the University of Wisconsin (for details see Sweet, Bumpass, and Call 1988a). Fieldwork for the survey was carried out by the Institute for Survey Research at Temple University during 1987 and 1988. Based on a multistage areal sampling plan, interviews were face-to-face, with sensitive information obtained through a self-administered questionnaire filled out by the respondent at various points in the course of the interview. Complete interviews were conducted with 13,008 men and women. The main sample was 9,643 households. In addition, a double sampling was obtained of minorities, single-parent families, families with stepchildren, cohabiting couples, and recently married persons. The sample was representative of the population then living in the United States, aged 19 and older (or married). Information was obtained on a wide range of family-related behavior and attitudes.

    The oversampling of members of minority groups, households containing single-parent families, stepfamilies, recently married couples, and cohabiting couples allowed for a sufficient number of cases to be analyzed for these segments of the population. This feature of the data was particularly important in our examination of nest-leaving patterns for Americans who were Black and Hispanic. To properly represent the population of the United States, all of the descriptive cross-tabulations are based on weighted data.

    Measures

    Our measures of nest-leaving processes (ages at leaving and returning home and routes taken out of the home) are based on a series of questions on that subject, which are discussed in detail in Chapters 2 and 3. We use ages at first leaving home and first returning home, because a high proportion (60 percent) never return. Our specification of routes taken out of the home generally distinguishes between those leaving for marriage, school, military service, a job, independence, or nontraditional family formation (single parenthood or cohabitation), although for some analyses, we have combined single parenthood with marriage and cohabitation with independence, based on the similarities in rates of returning home (low for the first pair and high for the second).

    Our chief focus, however, is in differences in nest-leaving—differences over time, preeminently but also differences between men and women, between groups defined by religion, ethnicity and social class, between those who grew up in different sorts of families, and even between different regions of the country. Each of these dimensions presented its own challenges of definition and measurement. Table A.1 provides basic descriptive information for each of these variables, including means or proportions and standard deviations for continuous variables.

    Nest-Leaving Cohort By including adults of all ages and asking them questions about leaving and returning home in early adulthood, the survey allowed us to examine the nest-leaving patterns of young adults up to three-quarters of a century earlier, because the respondents were reporting on their own past histories. We used their current age to construct up to eight “nest-leaving cohorts” (defined by the year they reached age 18 and described in detail in Chapter 2).

    We examined the quality of the data provided by the oldest respondents and found them essentially complete and believable, even up to age 95. This is likely to be the result of the survey's prior screening of respondents for difficulty in completing the interview and the fact that the data were collected in face-to-face interviews. There were few interviews of older persons, however (only 140 cases of persons older than 85). As a result, we include everyone aged 76 or older in a single group and use them to describe the leaving-home process for the pre-Depression period. We call this the “nest-leaving cohort” of the 1920s, although about a eighth of them actually reached age 18 prior to 1920.

    Ethnicity Our primary measure of ethnic community membership divides the population into three groups: Blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Whites. For some analyses, we also examined the small number of Asians in the sample. We identified these groups based on answers to a combination of questions that allowed the respondents to self-identify themselves. Based on research showing that in the United States, the behaviors of persons of Hispanic origin who appear to be Black (and particularly their children) appear to reflect their race (as socially constructed) more than their Hispanic origin (Harrison and Bennett 1995:164–69; Massey and Denton 1993:112–14), we place those who respond that they are both Black and Hispanic in the Black category.

    Origin Given the importance of immigration in 20th century U.S. history and the fact that many who immigrated to this country left home before arrival, we include a measure of non-U.S. birth, based simply on a question on where the respondent was born. For the analyses in Chapter 9, we divide this group into two, those who were born in more industrialized countries and those who were born in less industrialized countries. The basis of this distinction is discussed in that chapter.

    Childhood Family Structure Because our focus is on changes in family living arrangements and the age at which change occurs (particularly leaving home), we paid particular attention to another source of information in the NSFH, the childhood residential history. These data provided annual information on whom the respondent lived with at every age up to age 19. In addition to providing information on childhood family structure, it also allowed us to cross-check respondents' responses about when they left home, at least for those who left before age 19. We had been particularly concerned that some early nest-leaving among the children of divorce was simply the result of shifting between parents. We found these two sets of information to be normally in agreement. Most (79 percent) who said they left home at a given age also reported some nonparental living arrangement in their residential history. Of the 270 cases of those who reported living in some parental situation the year after they left home, only 16 had “changed parents.” Most of the rest had reported leaving home to attend school, suggesting that they, like many first-year college students and their parents, are somewhat confused about whom they really live with.

    The annual parent history was used in most of our regression analyses to measure two varieties of childhood family structure: living in a stable two-parent family until leaving home or some other arrangement. For our analyses of the effects of family structure on leaving and returning home, we divided the possibilities into considerably more detail, considering both the timing of any disruption and the type. This allowed us to compare family structure versus family stability (because some respondents grew up with only one parent from birth), disruption early or late (making a break at adolescence, approximated as age 12), and single parent, remarried parent, and other family situations. Most of these variant family structures had similar effects on leaving and returning home, justifying our normal use of the single indicator, although several interesting variants are described in Chapter 6.

    Parental education This is our major measure of social position of the respondent when growing up and the one that has the strongest effect on nest-leaving. We took the average of mother's education and father's education (using one, if the other was missing), specifying the variable continuously in some analyses and categorically in others. Given that people were often reporting on the educations of those who were long dead, however, a substantial portion of the sample (11 percent weighted, 12 percent unweighted) were missing information on the educational levels of both of their parents. The level increased with age, with about 45 percent of those in the oldest cohort missing information on parental education.

    Fortunately, most of these cases (77 percent) had information on the usual occupations of one or both parents. We derived a set of imputation equations for parental education, based on the prestige scores for the mother's and father's occupations (filled in at the mean where missing with indicators of missing included as predictors) and included measures of ethnicity and region, as well. Because the relationships appear to have changed over time, we used a separate equation for each nest-leaving cohort. (For example, members of the older cohorts who grew up in the Pacific region had parents with higher than average educational levels, controlling for occupational prestige and ethnicity, but among the youngest cohorts, this had reversed.) These equations are available from the authors on request. The results of these equations (the coefficients and their standard errors) are used to impute parental education in our multiple-imputation procedure, described below.

    Parental Occupational Prestige In addition to our measure of parental education, we also examined the effects of parental occupational prestige (Chapter 8). This measure is based on a constructed variable provided by the NSFH that transforms information on usual occupation into prestige categories (see documentation of the NSFH). As with education, we use information for one parent when only that was available. When occupational information was available for both parents, however, we took a weighted average, counting the score for fathers twice as much as the score for mothers (based on the results of Nock and Rossi 1978).

    Region Our measure of regional variation was based on the regional categories created by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. For our major analyses, we combined several adjacent regions with similar patterns. (See additional details in Chapter 5.)

    Religion in Childhood We created a series of categories based on the respondent's reported religious denomination in childhood, using criteria described below. We applied this information, however, only to non-Hispanic Whites. Based on the research of many, including our own, it is clear that ethnic and religious background are interactive in the United States. Almost all Mormons and Jews are non-Hispanic Whites, particularly in the time period covered by our data. Furthermore, although both Hispanics and Blacks are religiously heterogeneous, research has shown (and we replicated it for these data) that there are much weaker differences by denomination among them than among non-Hispanic Whites (Goldscheider and Mosher 1991; Goldscheider and Goldscheider 1993). This suggests that racism and discrimination are powerful shapers of Black and Hispanic family patterns, leaving religious communities and doctrines less scope to shape behavior than is the case among non-Hispanic Whites.

    For non-Hispanic Whites, we created seven groupings, expanding beyond the classic “Protestant-Catholic-Jew” (Herberg 1955). We added categories for “other” religions (primarily Moslem and Asian origin) and for “none.” We also separated Mormons, a group as large as Jews in this survey and one that has grown rapidly in the 20th century.

    Furthermore, we subdivided Protestants into their more liberal and fundamentalist branches, given the increasing polarization that has occurred among Protestant denominations. To make this last distinction, we took the 50+ Protestant denominations reported by the NSFH respondents and cross-tabulated them by the questions on religious fundamentalism. There were three such questions:

    • I regard myself as a religious fundamentalist.
    • The Bible is the answer to … (COMPLETE)
    • The Bible explains everything… (DITTO)

    We divided denominations by whether the overall proportion agreeing or strongly agreeing with these questions on average was greater than half, which was the case for groups with a little more than a third of the total number of Protestants (37 percent). The majority of these are Baptists, with a substantial number of members of the Pentecostal, Nazarene, and Assembly of God, together with many other smaller groups. Those in denominations with lower proportions agreeing with the fundamentalism questions we call liberal Protestants. These are primarily Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and those who answered simply Protestant.

    There was very little ambiguity. The proportion of liberal Protestants who consider themselves fundamentalist was low, ranging between 12 percent (Episcopalians) and 23 percent (Congregationalists), with a somewhat higher level of agreement with the two questions on the value of the Bible (30–50 percent). The range on the basic fundamentalism measure for the larger groups of fundamentalists was between 34 percent (Baptists) and 64 percent (Assembly of God), with enthusiasm for the Bible's importance ranging between 75 percent and 85 percent. (The two other groups that consider the Bible their central religious text, Catholics and Jews, registered very low levels of agreement that they are fundamentalists, 18 percent of Catholics and 8 percent of Jews.)

    Methods

    The information we present is based on two major types of analyses. We conducted a large number of descriptive cross-tabular analyses. We performed an even larger number of multivariate regression analyses. We present both sorts of results, with some of the latter in tables (both in the text and in this appendix) and in figures that appear to be results of simple cross-tabulations but in fact are net of a range of other effects.

    Description Our most important goal has been to describe changes in nest-leaving patterns over the 20th century: changes in the age at which young adults leave home, in the routes they take out of the home, and their likelihood of returning home. Hence, we present a large number of descriptive tables and graphs, based on cross-tabulations of weighted data, such as the proportion returning home for each nest-leaving cohort. The graphs allow us to highlight particular effects. For the descriptive graphs, we ordinarily present percentages or proportions. For the multivariate results, however, we more commonly present the same “relative odds” that appear in the tables and text. These are somewhat problematic in graphical form, because the “no effect” point is 0 rather than 1. Hence, although a bar graph that shows differences in the likelihood of leaving home of two groups between relative odds of .8 and 1.2 can be interpreted as indicating that the latter category increases leaving more than the former, if both odds are below 1—for example, .7 and .9—the former has the “stronger” (and in this case, negative) effect.

    Our graphs are also not always strictly comparable. Some run between 0 and 1, but others, depending on the effects, go as high as 4, indicating that some group has up to four times greater odds of leaving or returning home than the relevant reference category. Each graph is designed to highlight the finding being discussed so that we adjust the scale on the Y-axis to capture the appropriate contrast. Hence, a difference of .3 on one graph might look much larger than it does on another. All the axes are clearly marked.

    Multivariate Analyses We also have a series of clear analytic goals, including trying to account for the factors that have contributed to these changes. Furthermore, it is often the case that simple tabulations are misleading, because a presentation of ethnic differences in age at leaving home might reflect real differences between ethnic groups or it might reflect other factors that differ among Blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Whites, such as levels of income. Hence, we need to go beyond basic tabulations to some form of multivariate analysis. Furthermore, because not all in the NSFH have left home and among those who left, many might return home in the future (at least in the younger cohorts), we needed to use a method that takes this open-ended situation into account.

    We constructed multivariate statistical models based on proportional hazards regression analysis (Lawless 1982) to study rates of leaving and returning home (distinguishing by route taken out of the home). The transition hazards or probabilities of leaving and returning are evaluated for all those ‘surviving’ in or away from the parental home, respectively, censoring those who have never left (or returned). A person's hazard, or probability, at time t of leaving home (or of returning home) for the first time is defined as the instantaneous probability of leaving/returning home at time t, given that the person has not yet left/returned home. Each person's hazard function is the product of a baseline hazard function common to all people in the regression and a factor that summarizes the person's descriptive covariates, which does not depend on age. Standard packages for fitting the proportional hazard model produce estimates of the natural logarithm of the relative risk, for binary covariates, or of the relative risk for a one-unit change, for continuous covariates. Thus, we show a relative risk of returning home for those who reached age 18 before 1930 of .65 compared with those reaching that age during the Vietnam era (1.00). This comparison means roughly that at any given age, the probability of the earlier cohort's returning home at any given time after leaving was about two-thirds that of those in the later cohort, other things equal. Many of the figures in the text are based on such results, noting that the relationship is net of the effects of the other factors in the model.

    We performed many such regressions. The two fundamental regressions for leaving and returning home are presented in Tables A.2 and A.3, and form the basis for many of our textual figures. These are our best estimates for change over time, and thus form the core of the analyses in Chapters 2 and 3, which address the basic patterns of change in leaving and returning home. These regressions are based on a double set of multiple imputations, designed to minimize the effects of two measurement challenges we found in these data: (1.) missing values for parental education (as we discussed above) and (2) uncertainty about ages of leaving home among those who left for marriage, school, and military service.

    Our analysis of nest-leaving routes is based on the reasons respondents gave for leaving home. However, we were concerned about the validity of their responses. The presence of related information on the survey—dates of marriages and cohabitations, of college attendance, and of military service—allowed us to cross-check these data. It seemed likely that the dates in the life course histories, which were obtained in intervals of months, would be more accurately reported than the timing of leaving home, which was obtained in terms of age.

    Overall, we found reasonable agreement between their activities and the reasons they gave for leaving home: Most who reported that they left home to get married at a given age reported marrying about that time. However, the fit was rarely perfect. Based on the marriage dates given in the NSFH, 37 percent of those who gave marriage as the reason for leaving home erred by a year or more in answering the question on their age at leaving home, although less than one-third of these were off by more than one year. The consistency between the reason given and the timing of the activity was closer for those who reported leaving for military service, with school-leaving in an intermediate position. These discrepancies introduce uncertainty regarding the actual age at leaving home. This uncertainty could bias coefficient estimates or increase standard errors in the analyses.

    To address both the problem of reasons for leaving and that of the large number of cases missing parental education simultaneously, we generated five different “complete” data sets (the number recommended by Rubin 1987). We imputed ages at leaving home by replacing the ages for the cases with inconsistencies, independently for each such case, the five draws also being independent of each other. The replacements were drawn with equal probability from the stated age of leaving home and the alternative age that we computed. This scheme for drawing the imputations is the largest-variance probability distribution supported by the interval between the stated age and our alternative age and is conservative in that sense. It is important to note that this method of correction has no effect on the measured timing of leaving home that was not in conjunction with one of these life course events. There was no basis for correcting the information in the case of leaving home for independence, because of conflict with parents or many of the other reasons given for leaving home. It was also not possible to correct ages at leaving home for those leaving for a job, because the job histories were not sufficiently detailed to provide a reasonable match. Respondents could have been transferred within a firm (requiring a move) or could have left to look for a job but not obtained it for some time. For each constructed data set, we also imputed parental education for missing cases based on the cohort-specific means and variances we calculated through the method described above.

    We evaluated the differences in the results obtained between the procedure based on multiple imputation and the much less computationally intensive method without “correcting” ages at leaving home (or including cases missing parental education). It clearly increased precision, making a few borderline effects significant. However, there was no change in the overall conclusions that would be drawn. Hence, we have included here many results that were not subjected to the additional check of multiple imputation.

    For analyses that expanded beyond these basic regressions of Chapters 2 and 3, we present only the “new” information. Some analyses include more detailed specifications of our fundamental predictors—for example, expanding our measures of community to include religion or region of the country or expanding our measures of family background to provide details on type and timing of family structure, sex of siblings, or more refined measures of socioeconomic background, such as public assistance. We present these results either in the text, when appropriate, or in the tables that follow, but do not duplicate the results of Tables A.2 and A.3, because they do not differ materially. These results are fully tested for statistical significance.

    We also present results of parallel regressions, in which case some of the differences have not been fully tested and must be treated as preliminary. This is a particularly important issue for analyses of change over time. The basic patterns are clearly well established, statistically. We also wanted to show that some of the relationships of interest had changed over time. In the case of ethnicity (the Hispanic convergence and the Black divergence with non-Hispanic Whites), we did such tests. In other cases, however (e.g., changes among regions, among those who received public assistance in childhood, or among religious groups), our results are based on separate runs for each nest-leaving cohort, which are too voluminous to present. In some cases, as well, we present results based on separate runs for men and women (Chapter 7) and for separate ages at nest-leaving (Chapter 4). These differences present a strong case based on their size and consistency and are likely to be statistically significant. This decision is based on our judgment, however, and not on conventional statistical tests.

    TABLE A.1. Descriptive Statistics for the Analysis of Leaving and Returning Home

    TABLE A.2. Basic Models of Leaving Home, Total and by Route Left

    TABLE A.3. Basic Models of Returning Home, Total and by Route Left

    TABLE A.4. Comparing Factors Affecting Leaving Home By Age (odds ratios)

    TABLE A.5. Route Differences in the Effect of Region on the Odds of Leaving and Returning Home

    TABLE A.6. Models of Leaving and Returning Home (transformed logit coefficients

    TABLE A.7. Changing Effects of Ethnicity on the Odds of Leaving Home, Total and by Route

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    About the Authors

    Frances Goldscheider is University Professor and Professor of Sociology at Brown University. She has been the Director of the Population Studies and Training Center and the Chair of the Sociology Department there and the Editor of Demography, the official publication of the Population Association of America. She serves on the editorial boards of major sociology journals, including the Journal of Marriage and the Family and Social Forces. Her book New Families, No Families? The Transformation of the American Home (with Linda Waite) was awarded the Duncan Prize of the Sociology of Population Section of the American Sociological Association. She is a leading expert on the demography of families and households in the United States and has published numerous articles on family structure and nest-leaving. Her current research focuses on comparing family patterns in Sweden and the United States.

    Calvin Goldscheider is Professor of Sociology and DOROT Professor of Judaic Studies at Brown University. He was Professor of Sociology and Demography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and Chairman of their Department of Demography. His major research publications have focused on the sociology and demography of ethnic populations, historically and comparatively, with a particular emphasis on family and immigration. He has published extensively in these fields in the leading sociology and demography journals. His major books include Population, Modernization and Social Structure; The Population of Israel; The Transformation of the Jews; Jewish Continuity and Change: Emerging Patterns in America; and most recently, Israel's Changing Society: Population, Ethnicity and Development. He has edited a series of books on population and development issues, including most recently, Population, Ethnicity and Nation-Building and Population and Social Change in Israel.

    Both authors have been Research Associates at RAND in their Labor and Population Center in Santa Monica, California, and are Faculty Associates of the Population Studies and Training Center at Brown. Together they have written Leaving Home before Marriage: Ethnicity, Familism and Generational Relationships and The Ethnic Factor in Family Structure and Mobility and edited a volume on Ethnicity and the New Family Economy.


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