What Have We Learned?
What have we learned about the changing nature of youth transitions and the effect of the Great Recession on them? In this final chapter we draw conclusions and seek further insights from the evidence presented. First we give a brief overview, taking the discussion back to the initial questions about the recession effects to which the preceding chapters were directed. Second, we discuss the evidence in the light of key themes of contemporary youth research and draw out their intersection with life course theory. We then consider the theoretical and policy insights to be gained from the evidence reported. Our discussion focuses on young people in the USA, the UK, and Germany, but also takes into account developments across a range of industrialized countries.
What was the impact of the Great Recession on young people making the transition to independent adulthood? The overall conclusion to be drawn is that the Great Recession was a significant but not principal influence on young people's changing life course post-2007. Better to characterize it as a major economic shock that intensified the impact of preexisting economic and social processes on young people's lives. Originating principally in Western countries in the period of technological transformation and de-industrialization of the late 1970s, as the contributors to the book show, these effects presented new obstacles to entering and sustaining employment within the adult labor market. There were also wider repercussions for functioning in the family and other life domains. Although the short-term effects may have been modest, they might be followed by more serious outcomes and long-term scarring effects. There could also be lagged effects (i.e., a delay between the exposure and onset of adjustment problems) and therefore continued monitoring of life chances for young people is necessary.
The recession effects varied with each successive cohort embarking on the transition to independent adulthood, i.e., they differed for different age groups, for different countries, and between different sections of the youth population. Younger cohorts, aged 15–18 when the effects of the Great Recession began to be felt, faced heightened difficulties in gaining entry to jobs or to the vocational education and training (VET) routes that previously ensured access to them.