Work and family trajectories: Changes across cohorts born in the first half of the 20th century

Simone Scherger, James Nazroo, Vanessa May

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This paper deals with the relationship between family formation and employment in older cohorts of the English population born between 1916 and 1957. Based on retrospective life history data of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and using sequence and cluster analyses, we explore three dimensions in particular: employment, marital status, and having children, and the extent to which individuals’ life course trajectories on these three dimensions vary across cohorts, gender, and level of education. While the majority of men followed a trajectory of marriage and family formation with a (relatively) continuous career, the family-work trajectories of women varied noticeably from one cohort to the next, including increased labour market participation combined with fewer and shorter breaks from work to care for children. While the current perception is that the so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation born soon after World War Two was path-breaking in terms of life course innovations, our findings are not compatible with the assumption of a single cohort being particularly pioneering.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-155
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Population Ageing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • employment careers
  • family
  • life courses
  • cohorts
  • baby boomers
  • sequence analysis


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