Divorce and Diverging Poverty Rates: A Risk‐and‐Vulnerability Approach

This study offers a new approach to analyzing life course inequalities and applies it to the link between divorce and poverty.

Previous research has suggested that divorce drives cumulative inequality between education groups during the life course. Two pathways play a role in this process: the educational gradient in the risk of divorce and the educational gradient in economic vulnerability to divorce. Both pathways should be studied simultaneously to understand how divorce drives inequality.

The authors used administrative data from the Netherlands, following the marriage cohorts 2003 to 2005 (N = 179,018) during a period of 10 years. Decomposition analyses estimated the contributions of the gradients in divorce risk and vulnerability to poverty differences during the life course.

In the 10 years following marriage, the fraction of the educational difference in poverty explained by divorce was 12% in the overall population and 26% in mothers. Among childless men and women, divorce increased poverty differences due mainly to greater economic vulnerability of the lower educated. Among mothers, divorce increased poverty differences due to both higher risk and greater vulnerability of the lower educated. Among fathers, divorce was unrelated to poverty.

Divorce is a major driver of cumulative inequality during the life course.

Destination as a process: Sibling similarity in early socioeconomic trajectories

This paper proposes a process-oriented life course perspective on intergenerational mobility by comparing the early socioeconomic trajectories of siblings to those of unrelated persons. Based on rich Finnish register data (N = 21,744), the findings show that social origin affects not only final outcomes at given points in the life course but also longitudinal socioeconomic trajectories from ages 17–35 in early adulthood. We contribute to previous literature in three ways. First, we show that there is a pronounced similarity in the early socioeconomic trajectories of siblings. This similarity is stronger for same-sex siblings and stronger for brothers than for sisters. Second, we show that sibling similarity in full trajectories cannot be reduced to similarity in outcomes, i.e., siblings are not only more similar in the final outcomes that they obtain but also in the pathways that lead them to these outcomes. Third, our findings support that sibling similarity follows a U-shaped pattern by social class, i.e., similarity is especially strong in disadvantaged trajectories, weak among middle-class young adults, and increases again within the most advantaged trajectories. We conclude that measures of social mobility that concentrate on final outcomes are at risk of underestimating the association between social origin and destination because social inequalities are formed across the life course, not just at the end of specific life phases.

Family, Firms, and Fertility: A Study of Social Interaction Effects

Research has indicated that fertility spreads through social networks and attributed this phenomenon to social interaction effects. It remains unclear, however, whether the findings of previous studies reflect the direct influence of network partners or contextual and selection factors, such as shared environment and common background characteristics. The present study uses instrumental variables to improve the identification of social interaction effects on fertility. Using data from the System of social statistical data sets (SSD) of Statistics Netherlands, we identify two networks—the network of colleagues at the workplace and the network of siblings in the family—to examine the influence of network partners on individual fertility decisions. Discrete-time event-history models with random effects provide evidence for social interaction effects, showing that colleagues’ and siblings’ fertility have direct consequences for an individual’s fertility. Moreover, colleague effects are concentrated in female-female interactions, and women are more strongly influenced by their siblings, regardless of siblings’ gender. These results are the first to demonstrate spillover effects across network boundaries, suggesting that fertility effects accumulate through social ties not only within but also across different domains of interaction.

Aiming High and Missing the Mark? Educational Choice, Dropout Risk, and Achievement in Upper Secondary Education among Children of Immigrants in Denmark

Although children of immigrant origin in many European countries are observed to choose higher levels of education than native-origin peers at similar levels of academic performance, little is known about the outcomes of these high-aspiring choices. Using administrative register data covering all children born in 1994–1995 in Denmark, I examine whether the high-aspiring educational choices of children of immigrants convert into educational success or, conversely, into low grades and increased dropout rates. I find that, compared with children of Danish origin, children of immigrants are not only more likely to enrol in academic upper secondary education but also make more ambitious track and subject choices at this educational level. These ethnic choice effects are particularly pronounced at low levels of academic performance. Applying a counterfactual re-weighting approach, I show that, although ethnic choice effects reduce the ethnic gap in overall attainment of academic upper secondary education, they also widen ethnic gaps in dropout rates and achievement. My findings indicate that high aspirations among ethnic minorities operate as a double-edged sword as they help close the educational gap between them and their native-origin peers but at the cost of inducing academically weaker students to embark on less feasible educational trajectories.

Discrimination in the hiring of older jobseekers: Combining a survey experiment with a natural experiment in Switzerland

Older workers who lose their job are at great risk of experiencing long-term unemployment. This vulnerability can be due to negative selection into unemployment or to age discrimination by employers. We empirically test three explanations of why older jobseekers may struggle to get reemployed: employers promote internal careers; employers prefer younger workers for physically demanding jobs; employers perceive older workers as being too expensive. We test these hypotheses by analysing two experiments in Switzerland. In a factorial survey experiment, 500 recruiters indicated for fictional CVs with ages 35–55 the likelihood of an invitation to a job interview. In a natural experiment, 1200 workers were surveyed two years after their plant closed down, allowing us to compare age gaps in reemployment among workers displaced by the same exogenous event. Combining the two experimental methods allows us to increase internal and external validity. Both the factorial survey among recruiters and the survey among displaced workers show large age barriers in hiring. Unemployed workers aged 55 are much less likely to be considered for hiring than those aged 35 with the same productive attributes. This age penalty is larger for blue-collar workers and clerks than upper-level white-collar employees, throwing doubt on the internal career hypothesis. By contrast, results for earnings are consistent with the argument that older workers’ reemployment chances are hampered by high wage costs.

Education and Life Conference in Newcastle

DIAL project SEED will organize Education and Life Conference on January. The Conference will take place in Newcastle on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th January 2020.

Find out more!

Family Size and the Persistency of Poverty following Divorce: The United States in Comparative Perspective

Studies have documented the negative association between divorce and women’s economic wellbeing in several countries. Less is known about whether the effects of divorce on women’s economic wellbeing vary by family size and their persistency. However, larger families are likely more vulnerable to the economic consequences of divorce, and more children are exposed to these consequences in larger families. We present the first comprehensive assessment of how the short-term and medium-term economic consequences of divorce vary by family size. Using data from the US (PSID) and between-within random-effects models, we estimate changes in women’s poverty risk up to six years following divorce, stratified by the number of children in the household in the year of divorce. We add a comparative perspective using a harmonized set of socio-economic panel surveys from Australia (HILDA), Germany (GSOEP), Switzerland (SHP), and the UK (BHPS). In the US, short-term negative effects of divorce on the risk of poverty increase with family size, but differences vanish in the medium term. Similar trends are found in all study countries, although family size differences are larger in Germany and the US than in Australia, Switzerland, and the UK. Our findings suggest that the presence and number of children increase women’s poverty risk only temporarily. Although women with children are less likely to recuperate by means of remarriage, they are more likely to recuperate by reducing the needs of the household and increasing their labor market intensity.

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

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In the first Episode of Series 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.

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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