Inequality dynamics over the life course: family and policy influences

PI: Johan Fritzell, johan.fritzell@ki.se

This research program illuminates how life-long interplay between our socioeconomic conditions; our family situation, including inter-generational exchanges (of material and social support); and the health and social care system of the place we live shapes health and economic inequality later in life. We aim to provide evidence on the extent to which major welfare state institutions influence inequalities and on how to best combat inequalities via broad policy interventions.

The project has four parts. The first, Life-course influences on unequal living conditions, examines how childhood conditions and trajectories of education, employment, and health influence financial and health resources later in life. It also investigates the impact of working life disruptions (e.g., unemployment), family disruptions (e.g., divorce), and retirement on subsequent financial and health resources. The second, Inequality impact of health care and social services, examines whether changes in Sweden’s health and social care system have led to increasing inequalities among older people and their families. The third, Family as an institutional agent – influences within and across generations, studies the roles of gender, social class, and marital status in late-life inequalities. It also examines whether intergenerational transfers of money, time, and social support increase solidarity or inequality. The fourth, Combatting inequality: policy evaluation using comparative and quasi-experimental approaches, examines whether welfare state programs can influence inequality in mortality and health in the older segments of the population. It also investigates whether prolonged compulsory education has reduced a variety of later inequalities, particularly health inequalities related to parental social class.

We will use data from the Swedish Level of Living Survey, the Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old, and multiple other sources, including but not limited to national Swedish registries, interviews with hospital patients, and European databases.

The program is funded by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (Forte).