Social Stratification of Changing Family Life Courses – Results from Sequence Analyses for Seven European Countries

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: Booth 42
Oral Presentation
Dirk KONIETZKA , Department for Social Sciences, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany
Okka ZIMMERMANN , Department for Social Sciences, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany
A major shift of life course patterns occurred in Europe throughout the second half of the 20th century. The post-war period of economic growth and mass prosperity fostered highly standardized life courses, characterized by continuous employment patterns (among men), nuclear family patterns with early and stable marriages, accompanied by medium levels of fertility. Research has proven, that living arrangements have pluralized and become more heterogeneous since the 1970s, while life courses destandardized. Value change, individualization and increasing economic insecurity are assumed to have stimulated these changes. We add to the discussion of the causes of destandardization by investigating which social strata are driving the process. We examine differences in destandardization of family formation between higher and lower educated strata in seven European countries with distinct socio-political systems and economic development. We use representative data from the Generations and Gender Surveys (GGS) for Norway, France, Italy, Russia, Estonia, Hungary and from the National Educational Panel Survey (NEPS) for Germany (n =  70228 respondents). We compare cohort-specific patterns of family formation between the respondents’ 15th and 35th birthday using sequence analysis, which allows examining complex life course patterns.

The empirical results show for all countries that a) ’traditional’ sequences of family formation are diminishing and b) life courses of the lower educated have become more destandardized than those of the higher educated strata. This is due to the fact that a new standard of family formation emerges among the higher educated, while the lower educated follow a variety of different paths. Specific life course pattern contribute to the social stratification of changing family life courses. Overall, our results suggest that destandardization is to a lesser extend fostered by value changes, but much more by social deprivation and failure to establish stable and socially accepted family trajectories among lower social strata.