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Age norms on leaving home: Multilevel evidence from the European Social Survey

Number: 32
Year: 2010
Author(s): Arnstein Aassve, Bruno Arpino, Francesco Billari
Keywords: age norms,European Social Survey,leaving home,multilevel analysis
Young people leave the parental home at different ages, and differences exist both between and within societies. To explain this heterogeneity, differences in earnings and employment, education and family formation are popular candidates. Comparative research has emphasised the importance of institutional arrangements, in particular the way state welfare systems are able to support young individuals in the transition to adulthood. It has been argued, however, that despite differences in welfare support, differences in social norms also play an important role. In this paper we make an attempt to explain the heterogeneity in individuals' perceptions of the age deadline for leaving home. Using information from the third round of the European Social Survey (ESS) we implement a series of multi-level regression models where we account both for country and regional heterogeneity. The idea is that contextual variables may affect individuals' perception of the age deadline, which in turn is likely to matter for the actual age of leaving home. Just as in the literature concerned with explaining actual behaviour, we find that strong normative differences between countries persist. We also find significant, though lower, regional variability in the analysis on the pooled set of European countries we have in our data set. Unemployment rate and education are found to have a strong role in explaining heterogeneity of norms at the country level, while religiosity influences age norms mostly at the regional level. This is consistent with the idea that cultural factors are important at the regional level while structural factors show their influence at the country level.

Arnstein Aassve

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Bruno Arpino

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Francesco Billari

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


Keywords: age norms, European Social Survey, leaving home, multilevel analysis


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