Books

Settersten, Jr., Richard A., Glen H. Elder, Jr., and Lisa D. Pearce. 2021. Living on the Edge: An American Generation’s Journey through the 20th Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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.


PearceReligion in America by Lisa D. Pearce, Claire Chipman Gilliland, Lisa D. and Claire Chipman Gilliland. 2020. Religion in America. Oakland: University of California Press.

Written in an engaging and accessible tone, Religion in America probes the dynamics of recent American religious beliefs and behaviors. Charting trends over time using demographic data, this book examines how patterns of religious affiliation, service attendance, and prayer vary by race and ethnicity, social class, and gender. The authors identify demographic processes such as birth, death, and migration, as well as changes in education, employment, and families, as central to why some individuals and congregations experience change in religious practices and beliefs while others hold steady. Religion in America challenges students to examine the demographic data alongside everyday accounts of how religion is experienced differently across social groups to better understand the role that religion plays in the lives of Americans today and how that is changing.


Pearce, Lisa D. and Melinda Lundquist Denton. 2011. A Faith of Their Own: Stability and Change in the Religiosity of America’s Adolescents. New York: Oxford University Press.

Drawing on the massive National Study of Youth and Religion’s telephone surveys and in-depth interviews with more than 120 youth at two points in time, Lisa Pearce and Melinda Lundquist Denton chart the spiritual trajectory of American adolescents and young adults over a period of three years. Turning conventional wisdom on its head, the authors find that religion is an important force in the lives of most–though their involvement with religion changes over time, just as teenagers themselves do. Pearce and Denton weave in fascinating portraits of actual youth to give depth to mere numerical rankings of religiosity, which tend to prevail in large studies. One teenager might rarely attend a service, yet count herself profoundly religious; another might be deeply involved in a church’s social world, yet claim to be “not, like, deep into the faith.” They provide a new set of qualitative categories–Abiders, Assenters, Adapters, Avoiders, and Atheists–quoting from interviews to illuminate the shading between them. And, with their three-year study, they offer a rich understanding of the dynamic nature of faith in young people’s lives during a period of rapid change in biology, personality, and social interaction. Not only do degrees of religiosity change, but so does its nature, whether expressed in institutional practices or personal belief.


Axinn, William G. and Lisa D. Pearce. 2006. Mixed Method Data Collection Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Social scientists have long relied on a wide range of tools to collect information about the social world, but as individual fields have become more specialized, researchers are trained to use a narrow range of the possible data collection methods. This book draws on a broad range of available social data collection methods to formulate a new set of data collection approaches. The new approaches described here are ideal for social science researchers who plan to collect new data about people, organizations, or social processes. Axinn and Pearce present methods designed to create a comprehensive empirical description of the subject being studied, with an emphasis on accumulating the information needed to understand what causes what with a minimum of error. In addition to providing methodological motivation and underlying principles, the book is filled with detailed instructions and concrete examples for those who wish to apply the methods to their research.