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Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries
Two of the regions in particular—Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa—have diverged negatively with regard to economic growth rates and only two of the regions—East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia—have been converging in terms of per capita real product. Although the majority of young people in the developing world live in the latter two regions, there is a significant minority that lives in the other regions for which there has been a tendency for divergence in per capita real product. The region of East Asia and the Pacific generally has converged most toward developed economies and sub-Saharan Africa least. The other regions are in between, with Europe and Central Asia in several cases diverging from developed economies but converging toward the more developed of developing regions. Even where there has been a tendency toward convergence, however, there remains a gap that continues to exist with the developed world, primarily because economic growth during these years in the developed countries has also been considerable. Thus, the overall economic contexts in which most young people in the developing world have been making their transitions to adulthood have changed, and these changes have varied substantially among regions, with more positive aggregate economic experiences in Asia, where the majority of young people in developing countries live, than elsewhere.
Behrman and Sengupta’s (2005) results may indicate that the dominant thrust, as suggested by many observers of globalization, has been toward convergence as an increasing percentage of young people in developing countries are growing up in an environment that is getting more similar in certain ways to that experienced by young people in developed countries. However, young people in developed countries represent only 14 percent of all young people worldwide. Thus, there is likely to be greater diversity among young people worldwide today than in the past. Some young people in developing countries are becoming more like their peers in developed countries, but others have stayed behind.
Trends in early childbearing are a good example. In some developing countries, high rates of early childbearing persist among adolescents; in most, rates are declining, some more slowly, some more rapidly, and in a few, due to a rise in the percentage of adolescents having premarital sex and delays in marriage, early childbearing is actually on the increase.
This divergence of experience among young people in developing countries is a phenomenon of particular importance. Analyses of changing transitions to adulthood in developing countries need to be sensitive both to the tendencies toward convergence and to some important tendencies toward divergence as well as to systematic differences among developing country regions and increasingly within developing countries.
Given the many global changes that form the backdrop of this report, one of the most basic questions that could be asked about the situation of