Research links achievement of young adulthood milestones to economic stability, finds sequence matters less

A new report from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation examines the 20-year-old policy approach focused on the “success sequence,” or the idea that young adults who complete adulthood-transition milestones in a specific order are more likely to become economically successful. The report considered the completion, timing, and order of these milestones, including high school completion, full-time work, marriage, then childbearing. The authors find substantial variation in the transition-to-adulthood pathways by gender, race/ethnicity, and parental education, but also identify a link between these milestones and economic self sufficiency in adulthood. However, in contrast to the milestones’ typical framing as a “sequence,” the report finds that achievement of the milestones, rather than their timing, is the main driver of economic success in adulthood. The authors also find no link between the milestones and family stability in adulthood, suggesting that the framework may be of less utility in a family-policy setting than in an economic policy setting.