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Decomposing Youth Poverty in 22 Countries


Although social provisions reduce youth poverty, the

advantage of Western social welfare is offset by more independent

living arrangements and higher BTST income poverty levels in

Western societies. The dramatic increase in poverty following

young adults’ leaving the parental home indicates not only the

tremendous impact of household composition, but also the

marginalization of young adults in welfare states. Major welfare

programs still operate on standard transitions (Furstenberg,

Rumbaut, & Settersten, 2004) when adulthood transitions have

been increasingly diversified due to prolonged education and

postponed entry into the labor market and marriage.

School-leavers, first-time job seekers, and young adults cycling

between education and work may cease to be eligible for

unemployment benefits or social assistance. Thus, young adults are

likely to meet economic needs by living with their parents, pooling

their household income, and sharing living expenses. Not

surprisingly, the prevalence of coresidence with parents is critical

for the economic well-being of East Asian and Southern European

young adults. If Taiwanese young adults had the same living

arrangements as young adults in Scandinavian countries, the

poverty level of Taiwanese young adults would increase by 5 to 9

percentage points (or 5 to 10 percentage points according to the

results based on the resamples).

The relative deprivation in the BTST income distribution is

another factor that undermines the economic security of young

adults. Compared to Taiwan, the higher levels of BTST income

poverty in Western countries enhance the poverty risk for young

adults by 9-16 percentage points (or 10-17 according to the results

based on the resamples) in social democratic countries, by 12-13

percentage points in France and Germany, and by 12-14

percentage points in Spain, the UK, and the US.

Of course, the family, the market, and welfare systems are

not independent of each other. Living arrangements are

interrelated with social welfare and market income when we