Family pathways, gender, and mid-life earnings

Marika Jalovaara, University of Turku
Anette E. Fasang, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Previous research documents increased diversity of family pathways in developed societies, but less is known about implications for the well-being of men and women. Our research asks: Which are the typical long-term family pathways, and how are they associated with mid-life earnings for men and women? We focus on the Nordic, gender-egalitarian Finland and use rich register data to follow family life courses at ages 18–39 (N=12,951). With sequence and cluster analysis, we identify seven typical family pathways, and in regression models link them to mid-life earnings. Contrary to expectations, our results indicate that the association between family pathways and mid-life earnings is much stronger for men than for women. Moreover, the differential earnings by family pathway are completely accounted for by childhood family background, education and labor market entry characteristics among women, but only partly among men. The findings draw attention to a large group of neverpartnered or only briefly cohabited childless men with low earnings who often go unnoticed in family research: the largest earnings disadvantage among men is thus not related to family complexity but to the continuous and combined absence of family events. The gender earnings gap is remarkable, however, and the (almost) never partnered childless men earn as much as women in their highest-earning pathway. We contribute to the literature on family life courses and social inequalities by highlighting a strong association between family pathways and earnings in mid-life particularly for men in the context of a gender-egalitarian welfare state.

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Presented in Session 105: Family development