Family, living arrangements and social structure

This NordForsk funded project facilitates the investigation of welfare, health and employment in the Nordic countries by aiming to establish a register-based comparative dataset that is to be made available to social scientists within public health and welfare research assessing health inequality in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

The project title, Contingent Life Courses, reflects that people’s lives and life chances are structured by important features of the social context, and notably, the welfare state. The database will enable rigorous analyses of how life courses are shaped by social policy, and assessments of the importance of social policy and welfare reform for health, welfare and social.

An attractive feature of the proposed database is that it will make possible comparative research on the living conditions and life courses of marginal social groups and how these groups are affected by social policy. Marginal groups, such as school drop-outs, adolescents in poor health or who live in poor or socially disadvantaged households, long-term social assistance recipients, lone mothers, cancer survivors and immigrants, are all small groups that are often difficult to reach, identify and analyse in conventional comparative survey data. Using comparative national register data will hence bring the trajectories and conditions of such marginal groups to light.

Simultaneously, the data will allow studying important population trends such as the development of health inequality, labour market exclusion, use of welfare benefits and social mobility patterns, in a comparative perspective. Nordic register data are pivotal to such an aim, as survey data may be biased or have incomplete time-series, and national register-based studies may not be sufficiently comparable. The higher prevalence and variance in social policy reforms obtained by assembling data from four different national settings constitute a much richer set of data than could have been obtained for one single country.

In sum, the project represents a promising and ground-breaking initiative that – if successful – will foster novel research and scientific excellence, and significantly improve the position of Nordic social scientists and public health researchers internationally. Furthermore, the knowledge that can be produced from the C-LIFE project will be of significant value for policy makers, and may also serve as an instrument for evaluation of new policy interventions and welfare reforms in the years to come.

NordForsk - C-life

Researchers: Lasse Tarkiainen, Kaarina Korhonen, Heta Moustgaard

Finland was the first country in Europe to achieve universal suffrage in 1906. In principle, men and women from all social classes had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. However, the poor who were continuously receiving poor relief from their local municipality were excluded from the national vote. The extent to which these voting restrictions affected the elderly and women is still unknown. Because the elderly were more at risk of earning less income because of a failing capacity to work, it is likely that they were more often politically excluded. This study will assess the proportion of those who were excluded from the vote because they had received poor relief at the beginning of the 1910s. The historic statistics needed in the study are held at the National Archives of Finland. The results of the study will enhance our understanding of the age discriminatory nature of Finland’s universal suffrage.

Key words: vote, universal suffrage, elderly, care, socioeconomic position

Researcher: Elina Einiö

The living and housing conditions of individuals are likely to be influenced by different life events and social transitions at various life stages and even across generations. Leaving the parental home involves housing change by definition, and the timing and context of leaving, for example, has been shown to relate to young people’s future health and well-being. Previous research on the associations between family background and later living arrangements and housing remains relatively scarce. Housing studies have not fully embraced family issues, and housing issues are also seldom addressed in demographic and family studies. Finnish register-based individual-level data provides unique opportunities to combine these perspectives and study housing and living arrangement trajectories across the life-course. Furthermore, these trajectories can be linked to various health outcomes.

Key words: living arrangements, transition to adulthood, intergenerational effects, social inequalities

Researcher: Hanna Remes

The association between SES and crime has received considerable attention in the history of criminology, and the findings have varied across countries and methods. Register-based data, on the other hand, have not been throughly utilized in criminological research, and researchers in Nordic countries are increasingly using registers to study the determinants of crime. This study is based on a nationally representative sample of 150,000 Finnish residents. Analyzing SES and crime during young adulthood, this study found strong associations between several measures of SES and several types of crime. The study also showed that the victims of most serious forms of violence are clustered in the most disadvantaged groups.

Key words: crime, violence, violent victimization, socioeconomic status

Researcher: Mikko Aaltonen