Does the month of birth influence the timing of life course decisions? Evidence from a natural experiment in Italy

TitleDoes the month of birth influence the timing of life course decisions? Evidence from a natural experiment in Italy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsCavalli, L
JournalLIVES Working Papers
Place PublishedLausanne
Type of ArticleResearch paper
KeywordsCox hazard model, education, first birth, Kaplan-Meier estimation, logit regression model, marriage, natural experiment

Social scientists have for a long time observed a strong negative relationship between time spent in education and the timing of family formation. However, individual unobserved characteristics influence the two processes simultaneously: ignoring these characteristics means overestimating the effect exit from education has on union formation and first birth. Using data from the I.D.E.A. (Inizio dell’Età Adulta) survey (2003), which provides information on Italians aged 23-28 and 33-38, I employ a birth-month experiment on a sample of 3,000 young adults in order to explore whether a different month of birth leads to regular and relevant differences in life course decisions among young Italians. I investigate the timing of marriage and fertility as a function of educational attainment in Italy that leads to exogenous variation in the age of school completion.

The results suggest that women born in the last month of the year are less likely to have lower secondary schooling as their highest educational attainment, and they are more likely to have achieved more advanced education. This result influences the timing of first marriage and subsequently the timing of first birth. The analysis suggests that social age, as determined by the school cohort, rather than biological age, is an important determinant of the timing of demographic events during the transition to adulthood.


Economic action, fields and uncertainty

TitleEconomic action, fields and uncertainty
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsHanappi, D
JournalJournal of Economic Issues
Date Published12/2011
PublisherAssociation for Evolutionary Economics
Keywordseconomic man, economic sociology, embeddedness, self-interest, uncertainty

Pierre Bourdieu’s field and habitus approach to the economy offers rich theoretical presuppositions of the interrelationship between social structure and agency, but they have not yet been sufficiently integrated into economic sociology. This article outlines the key theoretical assumptions of this approach in relation to those of the embeddedness tradition. Bringing the elements of field and habitus to the center of attention helps in examining how cognitive and historical factors matter for explaining individual action. It integrates different notions of uncertainty in economic literature into the discussion of the underlying action principles of the Bourdieuian approach. The study concludes that only a historical perspective which integrates social, structural and cognitive analysis can adequately explain the generation, reproduction, and transformation of individual action itself. The article sketches the broad conception of such a theoretical synthesis in the conclusion.

Short TitleJournal of Economic Issues
Refereed DesignationRefereed