Structures of Inequality and the Life Course. This is a new PRA for this application that builds on a longstanding tradition within the PSC of focusing on how changes in the social institutions undergirding inequality, such as families (Furstenberg, Lareau) and occupational structures (Allison, England), connect with lifecourse processes in affecting health inequalities and well-being. The recent addition of Fomby and Song, together with the work being done by Gonalons-Pons and Park, has built a critical mass of PSC researchers that can push forward innovative interdisciplinary and international research in this area. We focus on two main areas, changing gender and family relations and changing occupational structures.

Changing Gender and Family Relations: Gonalons-Pons, an early career scholar, is examining how gender, work, families, and public policies, structure economic and health inequalities. With external financial support, she is showing how changes in the division of paid and unpaid work play a key role in shaping economic inequalities within and between families. Especially in the context of rapid demographic change and low fertility, she demonstrates that gender culture is key to understanding the relationship between unemployment, divorce, and family life. Fomby, with recent and continuing NICHD support (R01HD105886, R01HD100438), is studying how families and social institutions interact to shape children’s well-being and life chances, with particular attention to economic and racialized inequalities. Her work focuses on children’s family composition – that is, the network of relationships among people who constitute a child’s family system. Her recent work has made three empirical and conceptual contributions to family demography: first, children, particularly members of minoritized groups, experience frequent change in coresidence with kin other than their own parents that is overlooked in research that defines family structure solely by parent-child coresidence; second, children often have enduring and meaningful connections to half-siblings and stepkin through their nonresident parents that are rarely observed in household-based surveys; and third, the apparent “protective” benefits of growing up in parents’ stable marriage that are observed among White children do not extend to Black children. Building on this last point, Fomby and colleagues (C Cross and B Letiecq) have argued to change the conceptualization and measurement of family structure “effects” on children to explicitly account for group differences in how family life is shaped by exposure to structurally racist and heteropatriarchal institutions. Fomby brings to the PSC considerable expertise in the use of large, longitudinal data sets, particularly the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Greenwood, in his book Evolving Households (MIT, 2019) addresses family change from a macroeconomic perspective connecting changes in marriage, divorce, and fertility to other macro-level changes connected to technology and female labor force participation. He provides an aggregate-level account that highlights the salience of forces outside family life in affecting demographic outcomes. He develops a broad, macro account of demographic dynamics, especially as it relates to family life.

Life course dynamics and opportunity. Park published a new book with former PSC affiliates Ho and Kao titled Diversity and the Transition to Adulthood in America (UC Press, 2022) focusing on racial differences in their paths through traditional markers of adulthood—from finishing education, working full time, and establishing residential independence to getting married and having children. The project asks: What does it mean to become an adult in the face of economic uncertainty and increasing racial and immigrant diversity in the U.S.? The book offers a comprehensive overview of young people across racial and immigrant groups and their paths through traditional markers of adulthood—from finishing education, working full time, and establishing residential independence to getting married and having children. Park is continuing this line of research investigating the transition to adulthood in Asia. With PSC support and in collaboration with the Korean center, Park has been building a research agenda around family change in East Asia. His edited volume, Family Changes and Inequality in East Asia (Demographic Research, 2021), is the product of a conference organized by the PSC with support also from the Perry World House. Adding to this line of research, Song, with funding from NSF, is conducting a new project on inequality in life-course trajectories of earnings among Asians in the U.S. comparing Asians of different origins and other ethnoracial groups, including Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. The project draws on newly available restricted-access linked longitudinal surveys and administrative data collected by NSF’s National Center for Sciences and Engineering Statistics, the Census Bureau, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Occupational restructuring and social mobility. Over the last several decades, technological advances, global trade, outsourcing, and other labor market shift have changed the U.S. labor market structure in ways that have profound implications for individuals’ work, health, and well-being. With support provided by a PSC pilot grant, Song examines how labor market restructuring—the changing size, content, and significance of different occupations—affects workers’ job mobility opportunities and outcomes. Song and J. Brand (UCLA) obtained original administrative data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics archives and other data from the Census Bureau to construct a new occupation database. Jacobs is a leader in the study of the future of work and the founding president of the Work and Family Researchers Network. His ongoing project provides a multi-faceted exploration of the future of work, including technology-driven task replacement and the future of employment of young workers. Economist Fang and Penn graduate student X Qiu are investigating age-earning profiles in the U.S. and China using a new life-cycle decomposition method. The new approach decomposes life-cycle earnings into experience effects, cohort effects, and time effects. The research is part of a broader project on the changing demand for skills in the US labor market, including analyses using text data and online job postings.