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Decomposing Youth Poverty in 22 Countries


I. Introduction

It is often said that young people are our future. Unfortunately,

not all young adults are hopeful about their economic prospects.

Many young adults live in poverty (Aassve, Cottini, & Vitali, 2013;

Tai, 2012). Chronic poverty in young adulthood can lead to

various forms of disadvantage later in life (Vandecasteele, 2011). A

comprehensive investigation of the structural factors leading to

youth poverty is imperative for enhancing the well-being of

individuals throughout the life course.

The expansion of the welfare state has brought social

provisions that have lifted many children and older adults out of

poverty. However, variations in welfare provisions do not account

for international differences in the risk of youth poverty. Previous

descriptive analyses have shown high rates of youth poverty in

Scandinavian countries where welfare policies feature high social

expenditures, comprehensive coverage, and generous benefits.

Conversely, low rates of youth poverty have been observed in

societies with limited social expenditures and benefits (e.g. East


Multi-level and multi-dimensional processes determine the

life course (Dewilde, 2003; Mayer & Schoepflin, 1989). A

combination of factors shapes individual well-being. Esping-

Andersen (1999) suggests that social welfare, the family, and the

market are essential components of the welfare mix. Indeed,

household composition is the key determinant of young adults’

economic well-being (Aassve et al., 2013; Iacovou, 2009). Previous

studies have revealed a significant increase in poverty for young

adults after they leave their parental home (Ayllón, 2015; Mendola,

Busetta, & Aassve, 2009), particularly in Scandinavian countries.

If family structure heavily affects young adults’ economic

security, do varying levels of social welfare provisions contribute to

cross-national variations in youth poverty? How does the relative

deprivation in market income affect cross-national differences in