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

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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.