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Social Sciences Week: Researcher Profile - Dr Julia Cook

Social Sciences Week: Researcher Profile - Dr Julia Cook

Dr Julia Cook is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Director of Engagement and Partnerships in the Newcastle Youth Studies Centre, University of Newcastle. Her research focuses on intergenerational financial relationships, young adulthood, housing and fintech.

Dr Cook said that she has always gravitated towards social sciences and people-centred work.

“When I got to university, I realised this is what I want to do. Social science brought together a lot of the things I really felt passionate about like social justice – and even beyond that, human stories and connecting with people, and understanding the individual experiences at the heart of wide scale issues,” Dr Cook said.

Dr Cook is a current ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow. Her research project Understanding intergenerational financial assistance with home ownership aims to provide insight into how the provision and financial receipt of financial assistance with home ownership impacts both donors and recipients following the transfer.

“My work is a qualitative longitudinal study where I speak to the same people across three points in time and I am speaking to young people that are buying their first house with some financial assistance from an older relative,” Dr Cook said.

“This project is focused on looking at what these arrangements look like in different family contexts, especially in the context of transnational relationships and money coming across borders and how it plays out in the context of family experiences of migration – and how it’s shaped by cultural norms. Another part is siblings providing financial assistance to each other in situations where parents can’t. There’s not any published research on siblings as donors, so I feel like I’m breaking new ground in this area.”

The research project will benefit the Australian community by identifying key vulnerabilities and risk factors of intergenerational financial assistance and will help develop evidence-based policy to safeguard the financial wellbeing of the growing number of families involved in this practice.

Dr Cook said that without the funding received under the ARC DECRA scheme, this project would not be possible.

“Having the time to do this research has been transformative. The level of funding that I’ve received is not something that my institution could provide me,” Dr Cook said.

“I think the most meaningful thing is having a three-year project and having a guarantee of funding. Being able to plan for the three-year timeframe means that I can do work where I’m following the same people over time which generates important findings. This project definitively would not be possible without the ARC’s support.”

Dr Cook is also a Chief Investigator on the 2021 ARC Discovery Project Young people shaping livelihoods across three generations, led by Professor Johanna Wyn, University of Melbourne. The project involves recruitment of a new cohort into the long-running Life Patterns program, which was established in 1991 and aims to understand how young people navigate life following the completion of high school.

“This project is exciting and it’s where I learned about and fell in love with longitudinal methods. It really is a pioneering youth studies project. I think this project more than any other demonstrates what can be achieved when you’re able to continue your work overtime,” Dr Cook said.

During Social Sciences Week, Dr Cook will be speaking alongside Associate Professor Steven Threadgold, Director Newcastle Youth Studies Centre, and Dr Julia Coffey, Deputy Director Newcastle Youth Studies Centre, at the Fintech Futures Public Lecture on 5 September to discuss the research she is currently undertaking in the areas of finance and digital technology.

“We are drawing on our existing work around young people and debt to start looking at young men’s gambling practises. Young men are the demographic that took up digital forms of gambling during the pandemic at a much higher rate than other segments of the population,” Dr Cook said.

“The event itself is bringing together a range of related work that’s around the theme of fintech. We’re hoping that both academic and public audiences think about these issues critically, and we’re hoping to signal towards their future implications.”

For more information about the event, visit the Social Sciences Week website.

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