About the project
After more than eight years since the start of the Great Recession we now have a sufficiently long time perspective to gauge its socio-demographic impact. The picture that is emerging from previous research highlights a variety of outcomes, such as increasing job precariousness, income polarization, puzzling health trends, declining fertility, and contradictory trends in gender equality. Yet, as most of the existing evidence focuses on one-country studies, we lack an overall view of these processes in advanced societies. The changes that have taken place during the crises years are still to be analyzed in the framework of a long run perspective of social change taking place in theses societies. We also lack an understanding of how the economic recession has affected the interrelationships between different socio- demographic domains. Our project aims to address these issues, by focusing on selected topics that we believe are key to an understanding of the role played by the economic crises in producing and reproducing gender and social class inequalities. These topics are at the core of the research interests of the Socio-Demographic Group (DEMOSOC) at University Pompeu Fabra, to which the members of the research team are affiliated.
The main foci of our project are, first, to assess the extent to which job polarization has increased in Europe during the recession. We will pay specific attention to its effects on income distribution, gender relations, and health inequalities. A second focus is on the consequences of the economic recession on parents' transmission of advantage/disadvantage to children. Third, we aim to identify whether and to what extent the crisis years have exacerbated the longer run trend towards polarization in family life, and fourth, we aim to explore to what degree such a trend simultaneously contributes to a reinforcement of income inequalities across households. We tackle these issues with two general hypotheses in mind: a) the long period of recession has exacerbated long term trends existing in advanced societies, involving social and demographic polarization and increased intra- and inter-generational inequalities; and b) social contexts have a key role in mediating the negative impact of the crises in individual life courses.
To identify the net effects of the economic crisis on social and demographic outcomes, we opt for a design which allows us to measure conditions and distributions pre- and post- crisis. We shall utilize three main distinct data sources, complemented by other data sets to answer more specific questions. Firstly, we exploit the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions surveys (EU-SILC) , which have two advantages: starting in 2003, they allows us to measure distributions for several years prior to the crisis as well as through the entire 8 recession years (new weaves will be added during the project life). Secondly, the EU-SILC includes basically all European countries. The drawback of the EU-SILC is the relatively short duration of following individuals and households (2 years and for a sub-sample, 4 years). We shall also make use of the EU-SILC's two special modules on inter-generational mobility.
Secondly, we shall use the Generations and Gender Surveys (GGS), now covering 18 countries (but excluding Spain). Since these data provide detailed recall information on all key dimensions of family dynamics, they are ideal for the identification of states and transitions (such as marital breakup or births) over citizens' life course. In addition, GGS has a panel component, with three waves covering nine years of the interviewee life course. For most countries this panel component includes years before and after 2007. And thirdly, the European Survey of Working Conditions (ESWC) and the harmonized Labour Force Surveys for the EU countries will provide detailed data on employment dynamics and the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) on health conditions.
For a select number of countries we can additionally exploit national panel data sources (such as the Muestra Contínua de Vidas Laborales for Spain, GSOEP for Germany, Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) for UK, and the Danish and British child panel studies). The harmonized Time Use surveys for the EU countries, for 2002-03 and 2010-11, will be also analyzed. Nationally representative data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) for Americans will be used to examine the hypotheses on health differentials.
Our methodological approach has three defining characteristics. First, we adopt a life course perspective. Life course approaches address the relationship between individual and social processes across time and space, by taking into account multiple dimensions, including the embeddedness of life courses in particular contexts, the interrelationships between different life domains, the individual links with family members, and the path-dependent nature of human behavior. Second, a key aim of this project is to study how contexts influence individual behavior. This can be accomplished by using multilevel analysis techniques, also in combination with event history models. This will entail including cross-level interactions between key independent variables and these contextual variables. Third, the role of selection, at the individual and/or the country level will be explicitly modelled.