The Speed of Life and Population Change

Nicoletta Balbo, Bocconi University
Francesco Billari, Bocconi University
Elia Boschetti , Bocconi University

In this paper we develop and apply a new and easily interpretable measure of population change - the speed of life - adopting an individual-level, life-course approach. The speed of life is the average number of events experienced by an individual within a given age interval. Merging several data-sets from 18 European countries and the U.S., we investigate to what extent the speed of life has changed across 4 cohorts of individuals born between 1921 and 2000. We find an acceleration of the life course over time, which is combined with a strong postponement of life events for individuals born after the 1960s. Such acceleration is stronger in Northern and Western Europe than in Southern and Eastern Europe. The speed of life across cohorts increases faster among low-educated individuals in the US, Southern and Eastern Europe, and for women. Multilevel statistical models show that faster life-courses are positively associated with human development, but negatively with individuals’ health, mainly due to risen family instability.

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 Presented in Session 107. Flash Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course