Stratification and the life course: Life course capital, life course risks, and social inequality

Book Section

This chapter reviews the relationship of stratification with the life course. The cumulative acquisition of life-course capital is conditioned by life-course risks that are confronted from birth until death. The first life-course risks are attached with social origins-when the unequal provision of physical, social, and economic resources by parents to their children conditions lifelong patterns of inequality. Another source of inequality of parental investment in prenatal, neonatal, and infant care is related, on average, to socioeconomic resources but is most strongly tied to poverty or near poverty and social exclusion from mainstream institutional resources. Postnatal childhood adversity related to poor nutrition or poverty has been found to have serious formative implications for subsequent acquisition of human capital and maintenance of health. Educational attainment appears to be the pivotal life course transition for predicting later well being in adulthood. The cumulative processes of stratification set individuals on different pathways of relative advantage or disadvantage. Early advantage increases access to beneficial opportunity structures, but considerable heterogeneity develops within aging cohorts as encounters with potentially fortunate, derailing, or deflecting life course risks emerge. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • O'Rand, AM

Published Date

  • December 1, 2006

Book Title

  • Handbook of Aging and the Social Sciences

Start / End Page

  • 145 - 162

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780120883882

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/B978-012088388-2/50012-2

Citation Source

  • Scopus