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Changing Paths to Adulthood in Italy. Men and Women Entering Stable Work and Family Careers


  • Letizia Mencarini


  • Cristina Solera



Paths to adulthood have changed greatly in the last decades: entries into the labour market as well as into partnership or parenthood have been postponed, with also new sequences and interconnections. In this piece of work we observe life-courses from the ages of 14 to 35 of men and women born in four successive cohorts. We distinguish them by level of education, and we analyse the timing and frequencies of their first job, the first job as an insider (as an employee with a permanent contract or as a typical self-employed worker), episodes of atypical work or unemployment between first job and age 35, couple formation, and childbirth. Our analyses confirm that today’s young Italians form a ‘postponement generation’, which achieves later, if at all, what previous generations had already achieved in their twenties. For men, until the cohort born in the 1960s, the norm for both high- and low-educated men was to be insiders at age 35, and to achieve that status rapidly. What has changed is that now men become labour-market insiders later, and the route is more tortuous, with long and repeated spells of unemployment or atypical work. For women – for whom being in employment, and working as insiders, has never been the norm – the change has been their greater involvement in the labour market, but with the greater risk, compared with men, of job insecurity, especially if their education level is low. In the later cohorts, the ages at first marriage or cohabitation and first childbirth have also changed, especially for highlyeducated men. This is strongly connected with changes in labour market paths, but with gender differences. Not holding an insider position inhibits the assumption of family responsibilities for men. For women economic and job insecurity seem to have less influence on childbirth.

Suggested Citation

  • Letizia Mencarini & Cristina Solera, 2011. "Changing Paths to Adulthood in Italy. Men and Women Entering Stable Work and Family Careers," CHILD Working Papers wp23_11, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpc:wplist:wp23_11

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stefano Mazzuco & Letizia Mencarini & Rosella Rettaroli, 2006. "Similarities and differences between two cohorts of young adults in Italy," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 15(5), pages 105-146, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sara Grubanov-Boškovic & Karra Greenberg, 2013. "Major, Initial Family-Life Transitions Amongst Young Italians," RIEDS - Rivista Italiana di Economia, Demografia e Statistica - Italian Review of Economics, Demography and Statistics, SIEDS Societa' Italiana di Economia Demografia e Statistica, vol. 67(3-4), pages 159-167, July-Dece.

    More about this item


    Labour market stability and transition to first child/paths to adulthood; gender; education; changes across cohorts;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion


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