A gender story of institutional disengagement of young adults in Latin America

Sociology Compass, 17:12, e13138 (2023)
Open Access


Latin America is home to many young adults who are neither engaged in formal education nor work, controversially dubbed as “nini” (“ni” trabajan “ni” estudian, denoting neither working nor studying). At the same time, early union formation and parenthood are pervasive in the region. Theories pertaining to the linkage between parenthood and female labor force participation are heavily based on evidence found in the Global North, with limited research on the topic in settings with less stable family structures, such as Latin American countries. This study tests the role household structure and family formation play on institutional disengagement of young adults in 12 Latin American countries. We explore the gender dynamic of human capital stagnation by focusing on early parenthood and conjugal partnership for women and men aged 20–25. We use censuses from the Integrated Public-Use Microdata Series and country-specific linear regression models. Our results reveal that the intersection of class and gender is a major determinant of institutional disengagement in the region. Women from lower social origins who leave parental home to enter conjugal union and parenthood at younger ages are particularly at risk. This study highlights the urgency of contextualizing the interplay between work and family within the framework of regional family norms, prompting further dialogues concerning the social implications of perceived inactivity.

Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.