What Influences the Success Sequence and Economic Self-Sufficiency? Findings from a Mixed-Method Study

What Influences the Success Sequence and Economic Self-Sufficiency? Findings from a Mixed-Method Study

OPRE Report # 2023-251
Published: Nov 03, 2023
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Key Findings
  • Quantitative data analysis showed that parents and family characteristics, followed by adolescent characteristics, behaviors, and relationships, were the two categories of factors that played the largest role explaining who completed the high school, employment, and childbearing milestones, who did and did not follow a success sequence pathway, and who became economically self-sufficient.
  • However, qualitative interviews demonstrated that the ways these factors influenced individuals vary depending on the outcome being analyzed. For example, for parents and family characteristics, our interviews suggested that although a stable home environment is an important factor in finishing high school, family values play a bigger role in completing the marriage milestone.
  • In interviews, most participants said they had planned to follow a success sequence pathway, but only some of them were able to. Those who could not reported encountering barriers they had not anticipated, such as lack of parental support and health problems.
  • The interviews also revealed some barriers to economic self-sufficiency. Participants who followed the success sequence and did not achieve economic self-sufficiency faced barriers such as mental or physical health troubles, childcare constraints, and stable but low-paying jobs.

Findings from previous research show that adolescents take different pathways in their transition to adulthood. Not all of these pathways follow the prescribed order in the success sequence model, and the most common combinations and sequences of milestones vary by gender, race and ethnicity, and parental level of education. The share of young adults who adhere to the success sequence model also varies by these demographic characteristics. These results highlight the importance of understanding the factors and circumstances that lead young adults to the various pathways and milestone completion, and raise the following questions: Do differences in milestone completion primarily reflect differences in demographics and family background? Or do differences in personal values, environmental characteristics, childhood and adolescence experiences and characteristics also play a role? Findings from previous research also demonstrate that the success sequence alone does not determine economic self-sufficiency. This makes it all the more important to understand why some people achieve economic self-sufficiency, and others who complete the same milestones do not achieve the same economic success.

How do you apply evidence?

Take our quick four-question survey to help us curate evidence and insights that serve you.

Take our survey