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Social Policies and Life Courses

Welfare states accompany us from the cradle to the grave. They shape our decisions, trajectories, opportunities and the risks we face, across all stage. In youth and young adulthood, education systems shape educational decisions, the chances at labour market entry and early employment trajectories.


But, does the influence of educational systems also affect life course decisions in young adulthood that come after education completion and labour market entry? Do they work across domains and shape family transitions, such as leaving the parental home, the transition into a stable partnership, becoming a parent? Together with Christian Imdorf (University of Hanover), we investigate regional educational policies in Switzerland, and their association with the three family transitions.

Moreover, we have seen that old age care policies are crucial determinants of the need for family-based care to frail individuals. Care needs of a close family member (i.e., a parent, one's partner, a sibling) often arise only in the second half of life, thanks to a shared life time between family members and longevity. But: what does that mean, if care obligations fall into a late employment period, where full-time work is important for accumulating pension rights, and when one's grandchildren are born? Do they also affect the provision of unpaid childcare?


In an article jointly authored with Diana Galos (forthcoming), we show that highger expenditures for childcare are associated with higher likelihoods of providing grandchild care among all grandparents, regardless of their employment situation or income. Formal chilcare provision can thus work as an enabler, but also an equalizer for intergenerational support. This association is mirrored in the finding for financial transfers, where we find the same narrowing income-gap in providing intergenerational support to one's adult children.


In a single-authord article published in JESP, I show that welfare states' expenditures for formal childcare are associated with voluntary and pre-mature labour markeet exits among grandmothers. Surprisingly, I found that it was the grandmothers in those welfare states with higher expenditures per child on the age of 6 that are more likely to leave the labour market if they started looking after a grandchild regularly.

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