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Critical Life Events and the Dynamics of Inequality: Risk, Vulnerability, and Cumulative Disadvantage NOTE: Funding will become clear June 2017 (Norface proposal)

This project studies the impact of two critical life events - job loss and union dissolution - on the life trajectories of adults and their children.

Theoretical Background
Job loss and union dissolution constitute common risks in contemporary societies. The flexibilization of the labour market and the individualization of family life have increased the incidence of these events that profoundly influence the life trajectories of adults. Both events are also potential drivers of inequality across the life course. According to theories of cumulative inequality, the experience of job loss and union dissolution is deeply stratified. Disadvantaged social groups are not only more likely to experience these events, but they are also more vulnerable to their adverse consequences, producing a steady accumulation of disadvantages over the life course. The project will study how job loss and union dissolution can lead to an accumulation of disadvantages in economic outcomes (education, occupation, and income) as well as noneconomic outcomes (health and well-being). Our central research questions are as follows: To what extent are the risks of job loss and union dissolution unequally distributed across socioeconomic strata and how has this evolved over time? To what extent does vulnerability to job loss and union dissolution vary across socioeconomic strata and which mechanisms explain these interactions? To what extent do job loss and union dissolution contribute to the accumulation of (dis)advantage over the life courses of adults and their children? Which work and family policy regimes are conducive to targeting these mechanisms in order to reduce life course inequalities? We distinguish between two pathways through which job loss and union dissolution may produce an accumulation of inequality over the life course: risk and vulnerability. Risk refers to social gradients in the likelihood of experiencing these events, whereas vulnerability refers to social gradients in the impact of these events on economic and noneconomic outcomes.

Research design
Work will be conducted within five research groups, all of which will apply comparable designs to the analysis of survey data and register data in five countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The advertised positions will focus on the Dutch context using register data that link adults to their children and on the comparative context coordinating and streamlining the work within the consortium of four institutions.

Amato, P. (2000). The consequences of divorce for adults and children. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1269-1287.
DiPrete, T. A. 2002. Life course risks, mobility regimes, and mobility consequences: A comparison of Sweden, Germany, and the United States. American Journal of Sociology, 108, 267-309.

Project initiators
Thomas Leopold, (UvA) Matthijs Kalmijn (UvA), Thijs Bol (UvA), Herman van de Werfhorst (UvA)