A lifetime of experience: modeling the labour market and family histories of older adults in Britain


  • Laurie Corna Lecturer in the Sociology of Ageing Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine & Institute of Gerontology School of Social Science and Public Policy King's College London
  • Amanda Sacker Director, ESRC International Centre for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health. Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College, London




labour market histories, family roles, life course, welfare state, latent class models


In the context of the life course, it is difficult to understand outcomes and relationships among older adults independent of the experiences that precede them. In this paper, we use a latent class approach to model interdependent labour market and family experiences from late adolescence to retirement age among a group of older adults in Britain. We also assess how these experiences are related to economic resources and health at age 65. The data come from the retrospective life history files of the British Household Panel Survey and our sample included older adults born between 1927 and 1940. A two-stage latent class model facilitates assessment of the most likely combinations of work and family roles at particular ages across the life course, and the pathways that link these experiences over time, incorporating the effects of gender and birth cohort. Model fit indices and theoretical considerations suggested that five latent life paths broadly characterized the work and family experiences of older adults in this sample.  They were distinguished by gender, labour market and family care activities, marital status and the presence of children in the household. We noted better economic resource and mental health outcomes among the latent life pathways describing predominantly male experiences, but also note the heterogeneity of women’s experiences and their implications for economic and health outcomes at retirement age. We discuss the applicability of the latent class approach for modeling work and family histories for future research.