Birth and fortune revisited: A cohort analysis of underemployment, 1974-2004

Tim Slack, Leif Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The cohort is a key concept in the study of social demography and social change. The enduring influence of cohort membership can arise from history-based and/or size-based effects. The most prominent proponent of size-based cohort effects is Easterlin (Birth and fortune: The impact of numbers on personal welfare, 1980) who argues that individuals hailing from unusually large cohorts will experience adverse labor market conditions relative to the members of the smaller cohorts that bracket them. Drawing on data from the March Current Population Survey for the period spanning 1974-2004, we examine the influence of relative cohort size on underemployment. The results provide modest support for the Easterlin thesis, showing the odds of underemployment to be greatest among members of relatively large cohorts, net of other significant predictors. The results also show that the impact of relative cohort size differs by educational level, suggesting that adverse economic conditions produced by large cohort size can be offset by broader changes in the labor market and other social institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-749
Number of pages21
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Birth and fortune revisited: A cohort analysis of underemployment, 1974-2004'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this