Research seminar: March 12, 2021


Living on the edge: An American generation’s journey through the Twentieth Century

March 12, 2021

Richard A. Settersten, Jr., Ph.D.
Head, School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, Barbara E. Knudson Endowed Chair, and Professor, Human Development and Family Sciences, College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University.

Settersten will be joined by Glen H. Elder Jr., PhD, Odum Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology; and Lisa D. Pearce, PhD, Zachary Taylor Smith Distinguished Term Professor of Sociology, both at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The authors will discuss their new book Living on the edge: An American generation’s journey through the Twentieth Century

About the book

History carves its imprint on human lives for generations after. When we think of the radical changes that transformed America during the twentieth century, our minds most often snap to the fifties and sixties: the Civil Rights Movement, changing gender roles, and new economic opportunities all point to a decisive turning point. But these were not the only changes that shaped our world, and in Living on the Edge, we learn that rapid social change and uncertainty also defined the lives of Americans born at the turn of the twentieth century. The changes they cultivated and witnessed affect our world as we understand it today.
Drawing from the iconic longitudinal Berkeley Guidance Study, Living on the Edge reveals the hopes, struggles, and daily lives of the 1900 generation. Most surprising is how relevant and relatable the lives and experiences of this generation are today, despite the gap of a century. From the reorganization of marriage and family roles and relationships to strategies for adapting to a dramatically changing economy, the challenges faced by this earlier generation echo our own time. Living on the Edge offers an intimate glimpse into not just the history of our country, but the feelings, dreams, and fears of a generation remarkably kindred to the present day.

Before coming to OSU, Rick Settersten was Professor of Sociology at Case Western Reserve University. Settersten was a member of the decade-long MacArthur Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood and Public Policy, and has served as Chair of the Section on Aging and the Life Course of the American Sociological Association.

Dr. Settersten is a specialist in life-course studies, with a strong record of experience conducting research and collaborating across disciplines and life periods. His research has often focused on the first and last few decades of adulthood, always with an eye toward understanding the whole of human life.