Reproducing or going against social destiny? A longitudinal study of a cohort born in the 90 of the XX century in Portugal
Portuguese national funding agency for science research and technology
ISPUP • Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas • Centro de Administração e Políticas Públicas (CAPP/ISCSP/UTL) • Unidade de Investigação e desenvolvimento Cardiovascular (UIDC/FM/UP)
This research project consists of a longitudinal study of the individual and social paths of a cohort of individuals born in 1990 and interviewed at the ages of 13, 17, 21 and 23/24 from a joint perspective of social sciences and public health.
It combines a research team from the ISCSP with sociologists and other social scientists specialising in different areas – work, education, family, gender, social class, health, quality of life, social capital and social networks – a research team from ISPUP (Instituto de Saúde Pública at Universidade do Porto. This last team began the Epiteen project in 2003-2004 and created a database on individuals who were born in 1990, aged 13 and attending all state or private schools in Porto. The database was enriched with later surveys (2007 and 2011) and currently involves 2,943 individuals (http://higiene.med.up.pt/index.php?detalhes=52&id=noticias).
The project has three main goals. Firstly we want to ascertain how social origins mark the young people's paths and opportunities and define different futures for them. We wish to know how they reproduce the advantages or disadvantages of their social origins, analyse intergenerational effects and ascertain the relative weight of factors such as school attainment, gender, occupation, social capital and subjective and motivational factors in their life paths. This assessment closely associates social trajectories with health, lifestyles and quality of life. Secondly, we are particularly interested in assessing factors that contribute to changing their future, allowing them to escape from modal trajectories. In other words, we plan to conduct a systematic study of upward social mobility, uncover its reasons and associate them with the health dimension. Our third goals has to do with the effects of the economic and financial crisis of recent years on social and individual trajectories and how it may interfere with them by changing paths, realities and expectations.
In order to achieve these goals, in the first stage we will analyse the existing database of information gathered at the ages of 13, 17 and 21. In the second, we will conduct another survey of the same individuals at the age of 23/24 and add new dimensions of analysis. In the third, we will interview a selected group of individuals in order to compare trajectories and identify the factors that have contributed to upward, horizontal or downward social mobility and to resistance or adaptation to the effects of the economic and financial crisis.
Longitudinal studies constitute a very sound method for analysing practices, social attitudes and individuals and social change and mobility. They have considerable advantages over single surveys: 1) there are no problems in comparing samples, as usually occurs in surveys that are repeated but with a different population, 2) the trajectory effects are assessed, because we accompany the same person throughout his/her life and can detect path changes and 3) they are excellent tools for measuring social mobility especially when we can compare generations, as is the case here.
We have established four specific lines of research:
In the first, we will analyse the relationship between education, work, mobility and social inequality. We know that Portugal still has high school dropout rates but, on the other hand, that there are clear upward mobility effects between parents and offspring in terms of school attainment, given the extremely low levels of schooling. How does this mobility affect young people's employability? Which carries more weight, social origin or school attainment?
Gender, gender effects, life paths and starting a family are other important issues to be explored. We know that young women's school performance is better than that of young men, on average, and trying to explain these differences is certainly important. But is it also worth assessing the effects of this difference on success in finding employment and starting a family?
Thirdly, health, subjective wellbeing, quality of life and their social determinants are other central lines of research, endeavouring to associate certain diseases with social and family background.
Finally, social capital, citizenship and social networks will be another line of research, in which we will look into how young people mobilise available relationship resources and networks and also assess capacity for intervention in the public sphere and the effects of the crisis.