Critical life events and the dynamics of inequality: Risk, vulnerability and cumulative disadvantage

Project outline

This project studies the impact of two critical life events – job loss and union dissolution – on the life trajectories of adults and their children. We distinguish between two pathways through which these events 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. Our main objectives are to understand how job loss and union dissolution contribute to the accumulation of (dis)advantage over the life course; what mechanisms explain the (unequal) impact of these events; and how far work and family policies are effective in targeting these mechanisms in order to reduce inequality. The research is comparative, using data from large-scale surveys and population registers in five countries: the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

The project is conducted in collaboration with the Department of Sociology, University of Oxford