Family Economic Vulnerability and the Great Recession: an Analysis of the First Two Waves of the Growing Up in Ireland Study

July 30, 2015

Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, Vol. 6, Issue 3, 2015, pp. 230-244

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In this paper we make use of the first and second waves of the 2008 and 1998 cohorts of the Growing Up in Ireland study, to develop a multidimensional and dynamic approach to understanding the impact on families and children in Ireland of the Great Recession. Economic vulnerability is operationalised as involving a distinctive risk profile in relation to relative income, household joblessness and economic stress. We find that the recession was associated with a significant increase in levels of economic vulnerability and changing risk profiles involving a more prominent role for economic stress for both the 2008 and 1998 cohorts. The factors affecting vulnerability outcomes were broadly similar for both cohorts. Persistent economic vulnerability was significantly associated with lone parenthood, particularly for those with more than one child, lower levels of primary care giver (PCG) education and, to a lesser extent, younger age of PCG at child’s birth, number of children and a parent leaving or dying. Similar factors were associated with transient vulnerability in the first wave but the magnitude of the effects was significantly weaker particularly in relation to lone parenthood and level of education of the PCG. For entry into vulnerability the impact of these factors was again substantially weaker than for persistent and transient vulnerability indicating a significantly greater degree of socioeconomic heterogeneity among the group that became vulnerable during the recession. The findings raise policy and political problems that go beyond those associated with catering for groups that have tended to be characterized by high dependence on social welfare.