Leaving the Parental Home and the Material Conditions of Entering Adult Life

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 1:30 PM
Room: F204
Distributed Paper
Caroline HENCHOZ , Sciences sociales, Université de Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland
Boris WERNLI , Fors, FORS, Lausanne, Switzerland
Youth sociologists usually note different stages of transition to adulthood, which are often understood as access to autonomy and financial independence (Galland, 2009; Harnett, 2000). However, synchronization and irreversibility of these stages in the course of contemporary life have been questioned and some scholars have insisted on distinguishing autonomy from financial independence (Hamel 1999; Singly, 2000). We focus on a particular stage of the passage to adulthood – leaving parental home, which is often described as a way to gain autonomy – and we examine the impact of this emancipation process on living conditions of youths.

We use the waves 1 to 13 from the Swiss Household Panel, a representative longitudinal annual survey of the general Swiss population, to study the economic impact of leaving the parental home for several hundred young people aged 18 to 29. Several objective and subjective indicators of financial situation, as well as debt and material conditions, are used as dependent variables. Analyzes are performed controlling for a series of socio-demographic (age, sex, nationality, region) and economic characteristics (job income, occupation, education level), as well as life-events (end of training, first job, entering into a couple) of both the interviewee and his/her parents.

Much more than a portrait at a given point in time, the use of the SHP longitudinal data with appropriate analytical methods can significantly enrich the analytical perspective on young people leaving their parental home, especially by taking into consideration other concomitant life-events and information about their family background. Our preliminary analysis suggests that for a number of young people access to autonomy through leaving their parents’ household is correlated with a decrease in material well-being. In other words, for some young people in Switzerland, access to autonomy is paid for by precarious living conditions and a loss of economic independence.