Labour market trajectories over the life-course: The importance of childhood negative life events

Claus Dalsgaard Hansen, Johan Hviid Andersen, Kristian Gade Kjelmann, Thomas Lund

Research output: Contribution to journalConference abstract in journalResearchpeer-review



The transition from school to work is important for influencing the trajectories people embark on throughout their life-course. The aim of this study was to investigate to what extent childhood negative life events and self-esteem (as measures of vulnerability) were associated with differences in labour market trajectories from age 16 to 32 in a birth cohort of Danish adolescents.


Information on labour market participation, educational events and public transfers from Danish adolescents born in 1983 (n = 3,169) was used to derive sequences in 7 state spaces monthly from age 16 to age 32. Cluster analysis on the sequences identified distinct groups of adolescents with similar labour market trajectories. Clusters were compared by negative life events and self-esteem to identify vulnerable groups.


Analyses of the sequences identified ‘in employment’ as the state space in which the adolescent spent most time over the life course (mean: 84 out of 204 months, i.e. 42%), however ‘outside labour market’ was the second most prevalent (mean: 33 months, 16%). The cluster analysis identified 5 groups with relatively homogenous trajectories. Cluster 5 was the most distinct group where the mean time ‘outside labour market’ amounted to 126 months, i.e. 62% of the observed time whereas only 27 months, 13% was in the state space: ‘in employment’. Members of cluster 5 also had lower levels of self-esteem at age 20 and a higher prevalence of multiple negative life events such as parental divorce (29% vs. 18%), death of a parent (9% vs. 4%) and parental unemployment (30% vs. 16%).


Vulnerable adolescents have labour market trajectories that are clearly more turbulent and lead to more time outside the labour market when compared to adolescents with a more unproblematic childhood. The lasting consequences of childhood adversity should be taken more into account in welfare policies even in countries with a high level of social security such as Denmark.

Key messages:

Studying labour market trajectories in a lifecourse perspective is important to understand the long-term impact of childhood adversities.

Childhood negative life events and low self-esteem may serve as predictors of turbulent labour market trajectories and more time spent outside of the labour market.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue numberSupl_4
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Event11th European Public Health Conference: Winds of change: towards new ways of improving public health in Europe - Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Duration: 28 Nov 20181 Dec 2018


Conference11th European Public Health Conference
LocationCankarjev Dom

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