Unequal Pathways to Adulthood: Inequality in Labor Market and Family Formation Opportunities of Young Adults in Korea

Kim, Young-mi. 2016. Social Science Review 47(2): 27-52.

Equality in opportunity in the early adulthood in terms of labor market chances and family formation is crucial as it pertains to the equality of long-term life chances. From a comparative perspective, Korea’s macro conditions such as its welfare institutions and its developmental characteristics enable a prediction that inequality would be greater within each generation rather than between them. Particularly, the current young adult (born in between 1980s-1990s), which is the first generation who spent their childhood under extensively stratified social conditions as a consequence of rapid industrialization starting in the late 1960s, is expected to show the greatest within-generation inequality. Using a nationally representative survey collected in 2016, this study analyzed the effect of family background on various socioeconomic and cultural outcomes including income, employment, marriage/childbearing intentions, political attitudes, evaluation of fairness, and life satisfaction. The result shows that the determining power of family background on various individual outcomes is strong and statistically significant only among the young adult group. Young adults from lower socio-economic background seemed to bear significant disadvantages in terms of both employment(income) and family formation (dating experience, attitudes towards marriage and children) even after controlling for individual attributes. Such conspicuous influence of family backgrounds among the young adult continued in the subjective side including issues such as evaluation of fairness, anticipation of upward mobility, political attitudes and life satisfaction. Strong in-group heterogeneity in subjective perception implicates a unique political quandary of the young generation in Korea.

Keyword: inequality within-generation, inequality between-generation, lifecourse perspective, young adults, stratified socialization, socioeconomic family background, ascriptive inequality, subjective inequality, inequality in labor market opportunities, inequality in family formation opportunities, gender inequality in young adults


Youths on the Boundary of the ‘Family’ Gendered Experiences of In/dependence and Normative Spatio-temporality

Jung, Min-Woo & Na-Young Lee. 2011. Economy and Society 89: 105-145.

This paper analyses experiences of ‘independence’ of the unmarried youths. Meanings of independence are continuously (re)constituted through conflicts against and/or negotiation with the ideologies of class, gender, and age, as well as the social normativity of the family. Therefore, this paper examines the normative spatio-temporality based on the middle-class heterosexual family in order to rethink the implications of the ‘family’ in South Korea. As the periods of training, employment, and marriage have become delayed because of the reorganization of life-course after the 2000s, the social practice of youth independence has become postponed. Youth, in this vein, becomes a period of familial design and management, reinforcing classed familial strategies in the making of a person’s life-course. While youths who can postpone their independence stay with their middle-class family of origin, becoming ‘post-adolescent’, those who cannot are dislocated not only from their lower-class family of origin, but also from stable housing. The hegemonic discourse of youth independence leads them towards a family transition (eg. moving out of their family of origin to the family formation and reproduction), particularly for women from privileged heterosexual family not only institutionally but also in discursive ways. However, youth experiences to navigate interdependent ways of life by pursuing alternative intimacy of co-habitance suggest a possibility of unmaking the normative spatio-temporality.

Keywords: Youths, Independence, Family, Life-course, Normative Spatiotemporality, Intimacy

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