Loading Events

DIAL thematic workshop ‘Institutional Influences on Inequalities across the Life-Course’


December 3, 2020
December 4, 2020


Alexander Ludwig


Goethe University Frankfurt

The fourth DIAL thematic workshop on institutional influences on inequalities across the life-course, hosted by Professor Alexander Ludwig from the Goethe University Frankfurt, was held online on the 3rd and 4th of December 2020. In addition to 12 scientific presentations by researchers from eight DIAL projects, the workshop included also a policy panel with representatives from the European Commission, OECD, Eurochild, and the German Federal Ministry of Finance. Read more about the presented studies and policy panel below!

THURSDAY: Labour market and income inequalities and intergenerational processes

After some welcoming words and practical guidelines from Alexander Ludwig, the first session of the workshop started with a presentation on LGBTQI workplace inequalities by Matthew Hall and Andrew King (project ‘Comparing Intersectional Life Course Inequalities amongst LGBTQI+ Citizens in Four European Countries’, CILIA-LGBTQI+). They introduced an agent-based simulation model of LGBTQI workplace discrimination, which allows exploring a series of theoretical questions, such as the role of agency in understanding individuals’ career progression and changes to workplaces’ discriminatory practices over time. In their presentation, Queralt Capsada-Munsech and Vikki Boliver (‘Life-Course Dynamics of Educational Tracking’, LIFETRACK) focused on the influence of selective schools at the level of lower secondary education on earnings across the life course for cohorts born in the 1950s in England and Denmark. Their findings show that, in both countries, those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds were strikingly under-represented in these selective schools even after taking into account social class differences in measured ability. Furthermore, attending such schools appears to do little to improve individual outcomes or increase social mobility, particularly in England. Alessandro Di Nallo (‘Critical Life Events and the Dynamics of Inequality: Risk, Vulnerability, and Cumulative Disadvantage’, CRITEVENTS) presented the findings of a study analysing the effect of job loss on fertility in Germany and the United Kingdom. Based on the results, he argued that job loss affects negatively the chances of having children for men and especially for women, and that the effect is stronger in the United Kingdom than in Germany.

Per Krusell (‘Trends in Inequality: Sources and Policy’, TRISP) kicked off the workshop’s second session with his presentation ‘Past, Present, and Future Marginal Propensities to Consume’ discussing both macroeconomics and inequality. The presented study seeks to answer the question about how the distribution of marginal propensities to consume has developed and to predict how the distribution will evolve in the future – the current prediction being that there will be a slow but significant further widening of inequality. Jamie Hentall MacCuish (TRISP) discussed the design and results of a study that uses panel data, which covers a cohort of individuals from birth to retirement, in estimating a dynamic model of household decision-making with intergenerational altruism that incorporates different forms of parental investment in children. The results provide explanations to why high-income parents have a higher incentive to invest in their children’s ability, which then generates the positive correlation between parents’ and children’s lifetime incomes. Gonzalo Paz-Pardo (TRISP) gave the last presentation of the day. In the presented study, the main questions were the extent to which households can self-insure against income shocks, and how government interventions could, through the tax and benefit system, better insure workers against these shocks. The researchers used both survey and administrative data from the United Kingdom to estimate a flexible process for wage dynamics and to develop and estimate a model of married and single households, which they then used to perform policy evaluations.

Policy panel

Alexander Ludwig chaired the policy panel, which brought together the Secretary General of Eurochild Jana Hainswortch, Policy Officer Stefan Iszkowski of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social  Affairs and Inclusion, the Head of Social Policy Division at the OECD Monika Queisser, and Chief Economist of the German Federal Ministry of Finance Jakob von Weizsäcker. The panellists discussed their views on the different drivers of inequality over the life-cycle, the role of respective institutions and desired policy reforms, and the question of how policy design on inequality should be re-thought in light of the Covid-19 crisis.

The consensus among the panellists, who approached the topics from differing viewpoints, was that there is an urgent need for recognising the human, moral, and financial value of preventive measures and early identification of challenges and turning points across the whole life-cycle, but particularly in early childhood. In this regard, the importance of adopting a holistic approach of early childhood development was emphasised. According to the panellists, what is needed now, particularly due to the drastic repercussions of the Covid-19 crisis, is a caring and enabling (not patronising or nannying) state that helps its members throughout the life-cycle and recognises the potential in every citizen. One necessary step towards this goal is that all the policy fields work together across sector boundaries.

FRIDAY: Cross-national differences and inequalities towards the end of working lives and at the very beginning of life

The second day of the workshop started with Anette Eva Fasang’s (‘Inequality, early adult life courses and economic outcomes at mid-life in comparative context’, EQUALLIVES) presentation examining how welfare states shape social inequality in parallel work and family lives from ages 21 to 40 in four European countries representing different welfare state models. The results of the study illustrate that, while the most economically successful life courses are remarkably similar – and far more likely to be experienced by men – across countries, socio-economically disadvantaged life courses and the extent to which they are gendered remain highly country specific. Konrad Turek (CRITEVENTS) presented the Comparative Panel File (CPF), which is an open science project to harmonise the world’s major and longest-running household panel surveys from seven countries. CPF provides an open-source code to construct a comparative dataset based on the original data from the household panel surveys in order to maximise the comparative research potential of powerful datasets and to support the community of researchers interested in comparative life course studies. In the third presentation of the session, Áine Ní Léime (‘Dynamics of Accumulated Inequalities for Seniors in Employment’, DAISIE) discussed her study on gender inequalities across the life course among older Irish healthcare workers with a focus on the implications of the institutional policy context and caring norms on their gender-differentiated work-life experiences and wellbeing. The findings of the study suggest, for instance, that there are gender inequalities in relation to financial wellbeing of older workers, among whom women are more likely to be financially disadvantaged. This is connected with women’s greater caring responsibilities and the context of policies that are not family friendly enough.

In final session of the workshop, the first presentation was given by Christine Farquharson (‘Growing up Unequal? The Origins, Dynamics and Lifecycle Consequences of Childhood Inequalities’, GUODLCCI) on the topic of workforce quality in early years interventions. Drawing on evidence from a large-scale home visiting programme, the study examined the factors that drive effectiveness in early intervention programmes targeted at highly disadvantaged clients. The results illustrate aspects of the ways in which the quality of the workforce matters for the cognitive, socio-emotional, and health outcomes of both children and mothers. Nicole Baumann (‘Life Course Dynamics after Preterm Birth – Protective Factors for Social and Educational Transitions, Health, and Prosperity’, PremLife) discussed results of a study on the role of adverse birth outcomes, such as preterm birth, in the relationship that parental educational and occupational achievement have with child academic performance. The analysis included three birth cohorts from the United Kingdom, and the results suggest that, on a population level, the phenomenon of intergenerational transmission is largely independent of effects through adverse birth outcomes. The workshop concluded with a presentation by Ayten Bilgin (PremLife) who talked about a study on the changes in emotional problems, hyperactivity, and conduct problems in moderate to late preterm children and adolescents over a 40-year period in the United Kingdom. The results revealed that mother-reported emotional problems and hyperactivity symptoms during late childhood and adolescence of those born moderate-to-late preterm have increased relative to those born full term, whereas the self-reported emotional problems have stayed similar.