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Life Conditions and Opportunities of Young Adults: Evidence from Italy in European Comparative Perspective

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This paper originates from the current political debate on the vulnerability and lack of opportunities of the young people in Italy that may stand in the way of enjoying a “good quality of life”. In particular, we refer to three basic life outcomes, namely “having enough money”, “enjoying an adequate life standard” and “enjoying good health” that summarize the aspirations of many young people. The paper is intended not only to stress the particular features for the Italian case but also to present a comparative analysis across the European Countries. Moreover, the discussion on the above issues is referred to the group of individuals between 26 and 40 years-old since this group includes different generations of young people facing different opportunities to achieve independent adult life in the presence of a wide range of educational, employment, housing or social-welfare policies that might support or hinder the autonomisation process. In detail, we use a life-course causal model in order to study how, for every individual, the current outcomes may be even strongly related to past outcomes and we highlight that the understanding of the causes of “succeeding in life” in a comparative perspective across Europe can be an useful tool for Italian policy makers in order to pursue the goal of planning a future for Italian younger generations.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    In literature, several studies highlight that monetary indicators versus multidimensional indicators do not identify the same groups of individuals as poor (among the others, Whelan et al. 2001; Dewilde 2004). As such, the complementary use of both monetary indicators and indicators in other areas of deprivation is widely considered to be of value-added and beneficial for the understanding of poverty across countries (Nolan and Whelan 2009).

  2. 2.

    Stiglitz et al. (2009) too consider health as a dimension of people’s well-being in their Report on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. They add that “health is one of the basic feature shaping both the length and the quality of people’s lives”. Their claim seems to apply especially to the young who generally are in good shape and whose perceived health status may then be taken as a measure of general life satisfaction more than an evaluation of their physical conditions.

  3. 3.

    The outcome related to the work status has not been included in this analysis. First its link with the educational attainment may not be straightforward because of the effect of the personal choices as to whether or not to participate in the labour market. Then the individual work status may as well have no influence on poverty or deprivation which connote lack of resources at the household level.

  4. 4.

    We use the data base release rev.5 that has minor problems of data quality in comparison with the previous releases.

  5. 5.

    For simplicity we remove the subscript i that indicates the generic ith unit.

  6. 6.

    For reasons of space and because it is not relevant to the aims of this paper, the detail of this stage has been excluded.

  7. 7.

    The information on financial problems when young is not available in France, Germany, Austria, Portugal and Greece. This explains the exclusion of these countries from the analysis.

  8. 8.

    The dimensions are identified by factor analysis techniques following the procedure described in Whelan et al. (2001).

  9. 9.

    Operatively we define an household/individual as deprived in a particular dimension if it is deprived in all the items of that dimension.

  10. 10.

    The chosen characteristics describe a “benchmark” person who is very common in Italy.

  11. 11.

    This result may reflect the characteristics of the reference individual who is assumed to have a permanent job (thus contributing to the household income) while still living with her parents (thus sharing possible disadvantageous habits or lack of facilities in the house).


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Correspondence to Antonella D’Agostino.

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D’Agostino, A., Regoli, A. Life Conditions and Opportunities of Young Adults: Evidence from Italy in European Comparative Perspective. Soc Indic Res 113, 1205–1235 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-012-0136-3

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  • Young adults
  • Good quality of life
  • Opportunity and disadvantage
  • Life-course casual model