Social stratification and life course approaches are enlisted to study the effects of health and social events on early adult welfare use. Given the strong link between individual and parental economic disadvantage, the mechanisms by which social context affects welfare use are examined. This unique approach is made possible by the linkage of several administrative databases in Manitoba, Canada, allowing for the follow-up of a large population (n = 42,598) and subpopulation of siblings (n = 7920) from birth to age 26. Gradients of inequality were found for many of the predictors. Regardless of background, improved educational achievement and better childhood and adolescent mental health seem likely to decrease the use of welfare in early adulthood. Addressing the risk factors identified in this study would reduce inequities and lower the need for welfare in early adulthood.
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