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Keywords:

  • transition to adulthood;
  • childhood poverty;
  • financial support;
  • family context;
  • adolescence

The authors used the Panel Study of Income Dynamics 2007 Transition to Adulthood data in combination with the 2002 Child Development Supplement to examine social class bifurcation in young adulthood. Results indicate that poor youth possibly take on adult roles “too early” at the same time that high-income youth may be supported for a long period past their 18th birthday. Although not all evidence is consistent with this bifurcated story, childhood poverty does play a key role. Young adults from poor families establish financial independence early (e.g., contributing to family bills during adolescence, considering themselves fully responsible for their finances as young adults), whereas young adults from more affluent homes are more likely to receive financial transfers from their parents (who often help them pay for college and other expenses). These findings highlight the ways in which socioeconomic inequality in childhood can differentiate youth's experiences of adolescence and young adulthood.