Social networks of vulnerable young adults in Canada

Zenaida R. Ravanera, University of Western Ontario
Roderic Beaujot, University of Western Ontario
Jianye Liu, Lakehead University

In Canada, one of the population groups considered to be vulnerable to poverty is “young adults”. This is particularly true for young Canadians whose parents belong to low socio- economic status. In our previous studies, we found that the transition to adulthood of this group is fraught with difficulties particularly in the pursuit and completion of post-secondary education, which in turn affects their entry into the labour force and formation of their own families. We also found that their social capital is smaller in comparison to young adults with parents of high social status. Despite these vulnerabilities, there are young adults who are resilient – they manage to adapt positively to adversities. Social networks are instrumental to resilience not only of children, who are the subject of most studies on resilience, but of adults as well. Using the Canadian General Social Survey on Social Networks conducted by Statistics Canada in 2008, we examine the role of social networks in helping young adults aged 20-34 overcome their initial disadvantage of growing up with limited material resources. The survey gathered information about informal networks (composed of family, relatives, and neighbours) and about confidence in institutions (such as the justice, education, and health systems). Our analysis starts with 3649 young men and women aged 20 to 34 years old, determining their parental social status and education and work outcomes. We then focus on those with low parental social status, identifying those who are more resilient than others. Using measures of social networks that we have found useful in our previous studies, we compare differences in social networks in terms of the network size, density, trust, and diversity between those identified as resilient and those who continue to have difficulties. We conclude with discussion of policy implications of our findings.

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Presented in Poster Session 3