Family economic vulnerability & the Great Recession: an analysis of the first two waves of the Growing Up In Ireland Study


  • Christopher T. Whelan Queens University Belfast & University College, Dublin
  • Dorothy Watson Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin
  • Bertrand Maitre Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin
  • James Williams Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin



Economic Vulnerability, Life Course, Social Class, economic Class


In  this  paper  we  make  use  of  the  first  and  second  waves  of  the 2008  and 1998  cohorts  of  the  Growing  Up  in  Ireland  study,  to  develop  a  multidimensional  and  dynamic  approach  to understanding the impact on families and children in Ireland of the Great Recession. Economic vulnerability is operationalised as involving a distinctive risk profile in relation to relative income, household  joblessness  and  economic  stress.  We  find  that  the  recession  was  associated  with  a  significant increase in levels of economic vulnerability and changing risk profiles involving a more prominent  role  for  economic  stress  for  both  the  2008  and  1998  cohorts.  The  factors  affecting  vulnerability outcomes were broadly similar for both cohorts. Persistent economic vulnerability was  significantly  associated  with  lone  parenthood,  particularly  for  those  with  more  than  one  child, lower levels of primary care giver (PCG) education and, to a lesser extent, younger age of PCG  at  child’s  birth,  number  of  children  and  a  parent  leaving  or  dying.  Similar  factors  were  associated  with  transient  vulnerability  in  the  first  wave  but  the  magnitude  of  the  effects  was significantly weaker particularly in relation to lone parenthood and level of education of the PCG. For entry into vulnerability the impact of these factors was again substantially weaker than for persistent and transient vulnerability indicating a significantly greater degree of socioeconomic heterogeneity among the group that became vulnerable during the recession. The findings raise policy and political problems that go beyond those associated with catering for groups that have tended to be characterized by high dependence on social welfare.

Author Biography

Christopher T. Whelan, Queens University Belfast & University College, Dublin

Room B117 Geary Institute, University College Dublin, Belfield Dublin 4