DDRC News, 2021-03-24
Photo by University of Minnesota

DSOC Lecture Series Hosts Prof. Dr. Jeylan Mortimer:

Intergenerational Reproduction of Inequality in the Transition to Adulthood

On Wednesday, March 24, the University of Luxembourg’s Department of Social Sciences (DSOC) invited researchers, docents, and students for the second talk of the DSOC lecture series. This time, the Department was honoured to have Jeylan Mortimer as a guest speaker from the University of Minnesota, United States. Presenting findings from the Youth Development Study, Jeylan Mortimer elaborated on the reproduction of inequality in the transition to adulthood in the US context. Interested in the key take-aways of her lecture? Read on right here!

Decades of data in youth reporting

Central to her talk was the Youth Development Study, which monitors inter-generational inequality across three consecutive generations. Worth several decades of sociological research, the first respondents to the study were teens back in the early 1980s. By now, already their grandchildren are becoming subjects of the study.

Based on this wealth of data, Jeylan Mortimer presented statistical evidence confirming that material and mental support during the transition into adulthood is crucial for a successful transition into adulthood. Parent generations who lacked such resources during their own transitions were found more likely to hand on similar disadvantages to their kids. In other words, inequality reproduces itself.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Plant seeds and cultivation: key metaphors explaining intergenerational effects

Jeylan Mortimer also looked into how parents’ work values eventually influence their children’s value system. Much like dormant plant seeds that take a while to sprout, children usually do not immediately follow in the footsteps of their parents. Effects of parenting heritage only show once the following generation has reached their own mid-thirties.

Furthermore, the Minnesotan researcher explained how parenting styles vary by the parents’ socio-economic situation and type of professional activity. Parents in higher-paid white-collar jobs, for instance, were found more likely to create learning situations for their kids in every possible situation. Researchers call this parenting approach ‘concerted cultivation’. In contrast, parents in blue-collar jobs, which are usually paid less, (have to) leave it up to their kids to find their own learning opportunities.

Role model for Luxembourgish youth reporting?

Considering the amount of helpful advice Jeylan Mortimer and her colleagues’ research provides, the benefits of long-term cohort studies for policy makers are obvious. In Luxembourg, such cohort studies are much younger than the U.S. Youth Development Study. However, Luxembourg’s Youth Survey has already managed to produce equally telling findings about youth’s transitions into adulthood: both the recent project on young people during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the latest 2020’s Youth Report have been drawing heavily on Luxembourg’s Youth Survey data.

Quoi de neuf, Lëtzebuerg?