Book Reviews

Youth in Transition: Housing, Employment, Social Policies and Families in France and Spain

By Teresa Jurado Guerrero and Teresa Jurado Guerrero

ISBN: 978-0-7546181-6-4; 2001; xviii+358 pages; Ashgate Publishing;

Reviewed by Elke Beecher
Psychologist in Private Practice, Narre Warren, VIC

This book is based on Guerrero's doctoral research thesis, and takes a sociological approach to understanding the current social and economic trends of young people in France and Spain to stay home longer in the parental home. It seeks to investigate which factors facilitate or hinder their transition into adulthood, as they seek to establish their own independent households T h e data that forms the study is based on a French survey 'Enquente Jeunes 1992' conducted by the French Statistical Office in March 1992 on '10,000 young people who were leaving the general French Labour Force Survey sample, after having been interviewed for three consecutive years' (p 299) This specific information about young people aged 18 to 29 complements the general census statistics of the French Labour Force Survey, which is conducted by the French Statistical Office (INSEE). The Spanish data used in this study is the 'Encuesta Sociodemografica 1991 ','conducted by the Spanish Statistical Institute during October, November and December 1991' (p 300).The survey is based on the Spanish Population Census of 1991 and includes information collected via personal interviews with one interviewee from each of 159,154 dwellings. As in the French survey, only individuals aged 20 to 29 were selected for the Spanish sample.

The research was interested in exploring current European trends in the late nest leaving behaviour of young people, and the sociological factors influencing transition into adulthood and independence in France and Spain. To do this, the author explored the living arrangements in both countries, as in the formation of two and one generation households with each formation having variations in dependence and independence. The type of household formation was therefore affected by financial transition, social independence transition, employment crisis and labour market risks, social rights for young people, the housing market and availability, family values, religiosity, and marriage. The book also utilises a macro-micro model to explore possible forms of young people's choices for staying at home or leaving home. A cross-sectional approach was selected for analysis of the retrospective data in order to keep the historical context as constant as possible. The timing of the transitions for leaving home and the context differences between the two countries, were also explored. In the latter: differences between being a student or nonstudent; male or female; employment opportunities - with higher unemployment and lower educational levels more unskilled and agricultural workers being found in Spain as well as less rental properties, higher home ownership; and less State Welfare provision for young people. Other chapters look more specifically at unemployment; social class; economic activity; low expectation and early school-to-work transition; low quality of life; labour market difficulties; and income differences. The study also examined regional differences between France and Spain, social rights in the form of welfare assistance to young people; how government regulation of youth labour markets affect youth employment through subsidies; how government assists youth through housing subsidies for rental or purchase; and how this all impacts on early or late home leaving by young people in France and Spain. The author contends that popular beliefs about why young people tend to stay home longer in West-European countries since the 1980's are based on ad hoc explanations driven by personal experience (p 287). She describes these personal beliefs as Catholicism being strong in Spain, which means that young people in Spain tend to leave home when ready to marry. Young people also tend to stay home longer due to employment insecurities and housing shortages. Universities all over Spain make it unnecessary for young people to leave home, while French students receive more public benefits, which assist them with earlier home leaving. The author points out that these ad hoc explanations are mono-causal, and her research analyses provide a statistically driven result with which to falsify or expand explanations. The main findings from this study were that it is in the main employment shortages, and in particular the lack of long-term employment, as well as the high cost of housing, which are the main variables associated with late-nest leaving in Spain.

In Australia, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2002), reports that in 1999 'almost one in four 15- 29 year olds where living arrangements had changed in the previous year had moved out of their parents home, though not necessarily for the first or last time' ( p3). Professor of Housing Studies at Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Terry Burke, states that the tendency of young people to live at home longer in Melbourne, Australia, reflects the constraints of the housing market, of high private rents, and costs of home purchase. Other factors contributing to late home leaving in Australia include tertiary study requirements and an unstable job market (Herald Sun, Saturday 4 January, 2003, pl7).

I found the book to be a tedious volume, crammed with facts, figures, and statistics. Although the author applied a sociological and statistical framework to the interpretation of the data, the end product did not result in a great deal of new knowledge that general experience has not already confirmed. I think that the book would provide the greatest interest to academics and students of sociology, people living in France and Spain, and anyone wishing to understand more about economics, employment, education, welfare, and housing assistance in these two countries. Great book for insomniacs.

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