For nearly five decades, Glen H. Elder, Jr. has studied individual lives and birth cohorts across the changing times of the past century, with emphasis on the question of why some young people succeed despite growing up in disadvantaged environments and others do not. Elder’s lecture pursues this theme by exploring the impact of hard times in the lives of young people who grew up during the Great Depression, and later in the 20th century among young people who came of age during the great economic decline of the 1980s-90s in the rural Midwest. Scenarios from this work are relevant to the current economic crisis and its consequences for young and old.
Elder is a research professor at the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill where he directs a training grant on aging and population and manages a research program on life course studies. He has investigated the Great Depression in the lives of Americans, the impact of military and wartime experiences in the life course and health of U.S. veterans, and the effects of urban poverty as well as rural change on families. Across these projects, he has investigated pathways of risk and resilience in the young adult years. Elder has served on the faculties of the University of California-Berkeley and Cornell University, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science. In recognition of his work on the life course, Elder has received distinguished career awards from the Society for Research on Child Development and from sections of the American Sociological Association.
His books (authored, co-authored, and co-edited) include Children of the Great Depression (1974, 1999 expanded edition), Children in Time and Place (1993), Developmental Science (1996), Children of the Land (2000), and The Craft of Life Course Research (2009).