Do Nordic countries live up to their promise of creating fairer and more equal societies?


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In the first Episode of Season 2 of our podcast looking at research emerging from the Equal Lives project, we talk to Marika Jalovaara from the University of Türku in Finland and Anette Fasang from Humboldt University in Berlin about their research, Family Life Courses, Gender and Mid-Life earnings. The research explores whether the reputation of Nordic countries for having family friendly policies  that create a fairer and more equal society is deserved. Using register data from Finland, the researchers look at the earnings of adults based on their family lifecourse and reveal 2 groups of young adults who should be a focus for policy makers and researchers going forward. 

 

The Complexity of Employment & Family Life Courses across 20th Century Europe: An Update

Whether work and family lives became more unstable over the past decades has been debated. Most studies on life course instability focus on single countries tracing birth cohorts over time. Two recent studies benchmarked change in employment and family instability over time against cross-national differences in 14 European countries. Findings showed minor increases in employment and family instability compared to sizeable and stable cross-national differences, but were criticised for not including cohorts born past the late 1950s. We update their findings by adding over 15 additional countries and a decade of younger birth cohorts. Results still support a negligible increase in family instability, but a moderate increase in employment instability relative to consistently larger cross-national differences. Beyond previous studies our analyses show a polarization between countries with low and high family complexity. In contrast, moderately increasing employment instability seems to be a Europe-wide trend.

Why is there an educational gradient in union dissolution? The strain thesis revisited

Lower educated individuals have less stable unions across many Western countries. This is in line with Goode’s (1962) thesis that lower educated individuals experience more economic strain and are therefore at higher risk of union dissolution. Nonetheless, micro-level evidence is weak. This may be due to a concept of strain that is too limited or due to a focus on only one partner in the union. In this study, we broadened the concept of strain to cover multiple life domains and captured its experience by both partners in a union. We used data from the longitudinal Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey (N = 47,360 union-years; 8,092 unions). Event-history mediation analysis showed that lower educated individuals experienced more strains not only in the economic domain but also in other life domains. Moreover, lower educated individuals tended to have partners who experienced more strains as well. In total, the joint experience of life strains explained 47% of the education gradient in union dissolution. These results suggest that life strains are pivotal to the stratification of family life.

Parenthood Wage Gaps across the Life-Course: An Intersectional Comparison by Gender and Race

Objective: Parenthood wage gaps are mapped over the life course for white, Black and Hispanic men and women by the number of children in the US.

Background: For white women, research indicates that motherhood penalties only persist over the life course if they have three or more children. It is unknown how stable parenthood wage gaps are for fathers and mothers of other racial backgrounds.

Methods: Age-specific parenthood wage gaps from ages 20-45 are estimated using data from the 1979 and 1997 National Longitudinal Studies of Youth (NLSY79 and NLSY97) and fixed effects models.

Results: Only white women with three or more children suffer an adjusted motherhood penalty at age 45. For Black and Hispanic mothers, penalties are concentrated around age 30 and then attenuate irrespective of the number of children. Fatherhood premiums are confined to very early adulthood for white men.

Conclusions: Parenthood wage gaps are concentrated in brief periods of the life course. Enduring penalties only occur for white mothers with many children and signify white women’s advantage compared to women of color in two respects: 1) the penalty occurs relative to high earnings of childless white women, which are unattainable for childless women of color, and 2) white mothers with many children enjoy higher household incomes compared to their Black and Hispanic peers, which decreases the economic pressure to earn own income.

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Intersectional inequalities in work and family life courses by gender and race

Which privileges and constraints do members of differently empowered groups face when combining work and family? Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), we analyze intersectional inequalities in work and family life courses at the intersection of gender and race. We focus on work-family life courses of black and white men and women from an intersectional quantitative life course perspective. Results from recent techniques in sequence analysis show a weak link between work and family lives for white men. They typically have the privilege of possibility to combine any type of family life course with any type of work career. In contrast, family formation processes tend to constrain work careers and vice versa for other groups at the intersection of gender and race. We contribute to the literature by showing the privilege of possibilities for white men and specific constraints that black and white women, and black men face when combining family and work life. Among others, findings also highlight a sizeable group of resourceful black single mothers, who hold stable middle class jobs. They often go unnoticed in previous research with a deficit orientation on a group of black early single mothers who muddle through precarious instable careers and welfare dependence that we also find in our study.

Alessandro Di Nallo: Job loss and divorce: worse for disadvantaged couples?


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In Episode 12 of the DIAL Podcast, Alessandro Di Nallo from the University of Lausanne talks about his research looking at the links between job loss and divorce for couples to see if the likelihood of separating is greater for more or less advantaged couples.

The heterogeneous effect of job loss on union dissolution. Panel evidence from Germany, Switzerland and the UK is research presented at the DIAL Mid Term Conference in June 2019.

Dilnoza Muslimova: Birth rank – does it make a difference?


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In Episode 11 of the DIAL Podcast, Dilnoza Muslimova from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam talks about birth rank, genes and how well children get on in life and whether and how parental investment matters. 

Birth rank, genes and later life outcomes was presented at the DIAL Mid Term Conference in June 2019 and is part of the NORFACE-funded project Gene-Environment Interplay in the Generation of Health and Education Inequalities. 

Michael Grätz: Siblings and their incomes – the same or different over the life course?


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In Episode 10 of the Dial Podcast, Michael Grätz from the University of Stockholm talks about sibling similarity in income and what that tells us about their life chances later on.  The research, which uses Administrative Data in Sweden and is published as a Working Paper, was also presented at the DIAL mid term conference in June 2019. 

Country report: Sweden

The DAISIE project explores the gendered impacts of policies and practices aimed at extending working life (EWL) in five contrasting national settings (the Czech Republic, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK), using a mixed methods research design inspired by insights from life-course and gender studies. The project addresses two significant and timely issues: labour market participation in later life and the influence of labour market and family trajectories on the experiences of older workers in different national and occupational contexts.

This report explores the issue of extending working life in the Swedish context. It begins by discussing the Swedish gender equality politics, which follows by a presentation of the pension system, pension trends and obstacles against an extended working life. The processes towards an extended working life illustrates the difficulties in implementing gender equality in practice. In the Swedish debate on raised retirement age, older women’s and men’s equal opportunity to work into old age is not identified as a core issue, although this is an essential goal of the general gender equality policy in Sweden. Nor has the gender segregated labour market been emphasised to any great extent, despite being at the heart of gender inequalities in terms of wages, pensions and sick leave and parental leave. It is further shown that the argument for an extended working life is mainly based on demographic statistics and economic arguments about the sustainability of the Swedish welfare and pension systems, while organisational factors, such as ageism and age norms in work organisations have not highlighted as a real obstacle to older people’s participation in working life. Finally, it is argued that the Swedish gender equality project also has to include the older age groups and that the question of extended working life is an example of contemporary gender equality issues.

Nirosha Varghese: Sleep tight! Does a baby’s sleep matter for how they get on at school later on?


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In Episode 9 of the DIAL Podcast, Nirosha Varghese from Bocconi University discusses her research looking at the links between early childhood sleep and how children get on at school later on.

Further information:

Early childhood sleep and later cognitive human capital is Marie Curie funded research analysing the relationship between early sleep problems and later cognitive outcomes in a life course perspective. It was presented at the DIAL Mid-Term Conference in June 2019.

Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course (DIAL) is a multi-disciplinary research programme consisting of thirteen European projects. The projects examine the sources, structures and consequences of inequalities in contemporary societies. The programme is funded by NORFACE for the period 2017–2021.

EU flag shown in acknowledgment of EU funding

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 724363

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