Mock-up of the cover of the ESS Topline Results Series 11

New report published: The timing of life events

A new report that includes analysis of European Social Survey (ESS) data on the timing of life was launched at a webinar earlier this week (Monday 21 June).

This new publication is based mainly on data collected in 29 countries during Round 9 (2018/19) of the survey, measuring public attitudes towards key life events and related moral views.

The data outlines what people think should be the youngest age and oldest age of key events such as leaving home, marriage, having children and retirement.

Written by the team of academics who proposed the module, this new report - The Timing of Life: Topline Results from the ESS - also includes data from the first time these questions were fielded, in 2006/07.

A split ballot questionnaire design allows for analysts to consider if views on this issue differ for males and females at different stages of the life course.

The report found significant differences between countries and genders in the average perceived age that people become an adult.

Respondents in the UK and Czechia perceive women to become adults at 18 - the lowest average age of any country - whereas Bulgarian men are not seen as becoming adults by their fellow Bulgarians until they are almost 26 years old.

Public attitudes towards the average upper age limit of living with parents ranged from 25 years old in Denmark (for both men and women) to 34 years old for Italian men.

The report also found that, in Round 9 (2018/19), the acceptance of unmarried cohabitation has grown in all countries since the questions were first fielded in Round 3 (2006/07).

The average ideal age for parenthood has risen since 2006/07 - the latest data ranges from around 25-28 for women and 27-30 for men.

The perceived ideal age of retirement has also risen for men and women in all countries where data is available from both 2006/07 and 2018/19. in most countries the average ideal retirement age is lower than the mandatory retirement age.

Round 9 (2018/19) data shows that respondents think the ideal age of retirement ranges from just over 57 for Bulgarian women and 60 for Montenegrin men to 66 (Icelandic women) and 67 (Icelandic men).

The module of questions was initially proposed by a team of academics and selected for inclusion in the ESS following an open competition.

At the online launch event, Francesco Billari (Bocconi University) explained what the timing of life is, and why it is important.

Gunhild O. Hagestad (Agder University) introduced data showing the stages of adulthood for men and women.

Aat C. Liefbroer (Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute / University of Groningen) discussed new living arrangement in the transition to adulthood.

Jan Van Bavel (University of Leuven) examined parenthood.

Zsolt Spéder (Hungarian Demographic Research Institute / University of Pécs) focused on variations on the ideal age of retirement.

The event was chaired by ESS Director, Professor Rory Fitzgerald (City, University of London).

Icon of two people sitting at desks communicating via digital devices.

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