The Role of Parental Social Class in the Transition to Adulthood: A Sequence Analysis Approach in Italy and the United States

Working paper n°: 59

Author(s): Maria Sironi, Nicola Barban, Roberto Impicciatore

Year: 2013

ABSTRACT Compared to older cohorts, young adults in developed societies delay their transition to adulthood. Yet within cohorts, variations in timing and sequencing of events still remain. A major determinant of life course events is social class. This characteristic can influence the sequence of events in terms of socioeconomic inequalities through a different availability of opportunities for social mobility. Several studies show that in North America, a higher familial status tends to decrease the complexity of trajectories, while the opposite effect has been found in Southern Europe. This research examines the sequence of transitions, highlighting in a comparative perspective how life trajectories are influenced by parental social class in the United States and Italy. The main result of the analysis is that the effect of parental background is different across countries. In the United States, we find that a high status favors not only a higher education and an early entry in the labor market, but also a higher heterogeneity of states and the occurrence of new behaviors like single living and cohabitation. In Italy, the effect of social class is gender-specific. Among men, a higher social class tends to delay transitions more than lead towards modern behaviors. Among women, a higher social class either tends to facilitate the experience of a more modern and independent transition, or it generates a higher probability of postponing exit from the parental home, and then family formation, among those who completed their education and found a job.

Maria Sironi

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Nicola Barban

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Roberto Impicciatore

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Keywords:  Transition to adulthood; social class; parental background; sequence analysis


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