The authors seek to provide a comprehensive review of how human, cultural, social, socioeconomic, educational and psychological determinants shape children’s life trajectories. They discuss the interrelationships among these different approaches and point to methodological and empirical weaknesses of some of these approaches. The authors provide a significant contribution by reviewing studies across many different nations. This is the most exciting aspect of this article and the article would be significantly improved if it were reframed to emphasize this contribution and provide some analytical purchase on the differences across countries. However, while the review as it is currently structured might be useful for people who wish to review analytical trends in research about life trajectories, it is also very broad and the complexities that are involved in each of the approaches are not adequate represented. Consideration of more comprehensive efforts to generate more complex, integrative frameworks, for example the life course perspective (Glen
Elder’s work), are missing.
The human capital review provides the most comprehensive presentation of evidence, but a clear description as to how these different studies on human capital together illustrate how educational experiences serve as a kind of capital that shapes life trajectories is lacking. Are all the studies measuring the same thing? For human capital, this might seem straight forward, since they are supposedly measuring years of schooling, BUT even years of schooling can mean different things in different countries for different populations. Here is where the authors stand to make a significant contribution.
The review of social and cultural capital studies (all quantitative – where are the more theoretically driven qualitative studies that Lareau and other have done and how have certain dimensions of their work been tested using more quantitative approaches?) provides an opportunity to review critical problems of measurement. One possible
benefit of reviewing many different studies is to examine how these concepts have been measured differently. There is a brief mention of this in the concluding section, but this would be an excellent analytical strand to develop throughout the article. What does it mean that many different approaches have been taken to measure supposedly the same concept? Theoretical discussion, that might help illuminate these differences, is lacking in the article. The review of thesocial capital literature does not include key contributors, such as Burt, Linn, Portes and Small. The authors suggest that social network studies would solve many measurement problems, but they do not include social network analysts who have done this work already.
Socioeconomic background is implicated in all studies and these studies would be more useful as examples of other theoretical approaches. In fact, the categories are uneven- some represent theories, others characteristics of people. This is a little confusing to the reader.
The empirical review of educational research is fairly comprehensive, but the description of the approach needs to be more tightly linked to the evidence presented later. After such a diverse presentation of research, the final discussion
about typical trajectories seems simplistic. More discussion about how this final approach connects with all that has come before is necessary.