This book was inspired by the path-breaking study of Glen Elder, Children of the Great Recession (1974/1999), which prompted the work on the current book in the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession. Walter Heinz developed the idea – taken forward with Glen Elder, John Bynner, and Ingrid Schoon – of a comparative project to investigate the effects of the post-2008 banking collapse on young people and their families, using secondary analysis of comparable longitudinal data in Germany, the UK, and the USA. The focus was on transition experiences – especially regarding the impact of the recession on the transition from school to work and its consequences for other transitions and functioning, including achievement motivation, interactions with parents, partnership and family formation, as well as health and well-being. The choice of countries was motivated by their comparable labor markets coupled with contrasting cultural assumptions and institutional structures for managing youth transitions. Another important factor was the existence of comparable national household panel and other longitudinal datasets supplying the evidence base on which to found the comparative analysis.
Bringing together networks of researchers to form a consortium to undertake the work and shape the research plans was achieved by a series of workshops taking place in Germany (at the Youth Institute (DJI) in Munich and at the University of Bremen), the UK (Institute of Education, University College London), and the USA (Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, Michigan). At these meetings research ideas were presented, which were then further developed by the individual research teams.
From a promising beginning, we had, however, to change our ambitious plans. The original intention was for a collaborative project with a strong comparative design in mind, involving experts from the three countries, and entailing the harmonization of longitudinal data from nationwide studies of socioeconomic, social-emotional, and health outcomes. We submitted a number of proposals to funding agencies across the three countries, but financial support for the large-scale comparative cross-country study was not forthcoming. Instead we moved on with a dedicated core group, who produced reports from independently run projects around the agreed themes as played out mainly in their own national economic contexts.