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Abstract

Objective: This paper aims to explain societal differences in the event of leaving the parental home as part of the transition to adulthood, in the United States, Germany, China, and Taiwan. It proposes bridge hypotheses between societal characteristics such as kinship system and welfare regime and home-leaving behavior, and tests them with nationally representative panel studies.

Methods: Four panel studies (NLSY97 for the USA; PAIRFAM for Germany; CFPS for China; TYP for Taiwan) were harmonized for similar cohorts, with an age span of 15 to 30 years. Testing was based on age-specific tabulations of household composition and separate discrete-time event history models.

Results: The prevalence of home-leaving is highest in the United States, followed by Germany, China, and then Taiwan. Timing is earlier in the United States than in Germany, and earlier in China than in Taiwan. Gender-specific coincidence of home-leaving with entry into higher education, the work force, cohabitation, and marriage can be conclusively related to differences in kinship system and welfare regime, and regional opportunity disparities.

Contribution: The empirical results point to significant cultural differences between home-leaving in collectivistic, patrilineal societies (China, Taiwan) and individualistic, bilineal societies (USA, Germany). Whereas neolocal housing signifies an important step in the transition to adulthood in the latter societies, continuous intergenerational housing, or even an early return to it, is normatively supported in collectivistic cultures. Differences between the United States and Germany on the one hand, and China and Taiwan on the other, point to variation in welfare regimes and differences in urbanization.