A new tool for old questions: a sequence-analysis multistate model. Women’s employment trajectories before and after the German reunification

Matthias Studer, Université de Genève and NCCR-LIVES
Emanuela Struffolino, WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Anette E. Fasang, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

This paper examines whether women’s early employment trajectories converge or diverge in East and West Germany after the reunification in 1990, when the former communist East was abruptly absorbed into the social market economy of the West. To study how sudden social changes on the macro-level affect individuals’ lives requires to model trajectories as they evolve over time and asses simultaneously how they are associated with time-varying covariates on the macro-level. To this purpose, we propose a new methodology that combines event history multistate models with sequence analysis. We use the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS, Starting Cohort Six), which for the first time offers retrospective data for birth cohorts from 1944 until 1990, allowing to study a long period after reunification. Our findings support the convergence of women’s employment trajectories in East and West Germany. Increasingly difficult school-to-work transitions and multiple transitions in and out of the labor force characterized the trajectories after the reunification in the East. This reflects the difficult transition period from a centrally planned to a volatile transition economy of the East. In the West the casualization of employment processes was a more general trend. Beyond previous research looking at prevalence of certain employment statuses and the single transitions between them, our study highlights the volatility of East German women’s early employment trajectories after the reunification as one of the main changes. We conclude that the sequence-analysis multistate model is a promising new tool to address core research questions in the life-course paradigm on interaction between macro-institutional configurations and micro-individual life-course patterns.

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Presented in Session 14: Family transitions, employment and earnings