News from Young Lives: Inequalities in Children’s Outcomes in Developing Countries Conference
A conference on inequalities in children’s outcomes was hosted by Young Lives at the University of Oxford on 8 and 9 July 2013. The conference brought together researchers who use longitudinal data to investigate the different influences on children’s outcomes from all around the world.
A conference on inequalities in children’s outcomes was hosted by Young Lives at the University of Oxford on 8 and 9 July 2013. The conference brought together researchers who use longitudinal data to investigate the different influences on children’s outcomes from all around the world, including Australia, Ethiopia, continental Europe, India, Mauritius and the USA. A total of 54 papers, 23 of which used Young Lives data, were presented in parallel sessions chaired by a senior academic with relevant expertise, giving participants the opportunity to present and discuss their work with these experts. In this way, early career researchers had the opportunity to talk to some of the most senior and highly regarded academics in the field and vice versa. Comments from participants at all stages of their careers suggest that these opportunities for exchange were appreciated, productive, and one of the key features distinguishing the conference.
Unusual and unprecedented focus
The emphasis on research on children and inequalities, as well as analysis using panel data, gave the conference an unusual (to our knowledge, unprecedented) focus. Work presented touched on a wide range of key issues: early childhood circumstances and care, the role of schooling, the impact of economic shocks on child development, bargaining power of children in the household. Much of the research presented demonstrated the power of longitudinal data.
Among the most powerful of these was the plenary presentation from who uses a unique annual school dataset collected in Andhra Pradesh, India to construct learning trajectories over time. Due to the complexity of test design, data structure and analysis required to do this robustly, the work presented at the conference is surprisingly the first of its kind, and shows a striking difference in progress made by children from poor or better-off backgrounds in India. This not only offers evidence of grave inequalities, but also the possibility to investigate at which point the divergence in attainment of children from different backgrounds occurs.
The power of longitudinal data
Other demonstrations of the power of longitudinal data included work by Orazio Attanasio, Costa Meghir and Emily Nix, and Alan Sanchez, Young Lives Principal Investigator in Peru, as well as other researchers conducting structural estimation of the skill formation process, formalised by Heckman and co-authors, utilising measures of parental investments in children from all three rounds of the Young Lives data as well as the variety of measures of cognitive skills and psychosocial competencies available in the data. Finally, Karen Macours with Yuvraj Pathak showed yet another advantage of panel data: linking Young Lives data from India with administrative data, and utilising random allocation of woman quotas in government as a natural experiment, they were able to examine the impact of women’s representation in local government on child outcomes. This early work shows strikingly large positive effects on child nutrition.
Discussions in the conference working sessions and in the glorious summer sunshine demonstrated how much robust work on key issues relating to childhood is taking place. In particular, we saw work utilising the key advantages of panel data to look at dynamic processes over long-periods of time. In true conference spirit, we hope we offered lots of useful exchange and potential for new links between researchers.
Research Officer, Young Lives
Links to papers mentioned above can all be found in the Conference programme
- Young Lives e-newsletter (Inequalities 2013 Special Issue) 18 Jul 2013
- Inequalities 2013: reflections from a conference convenor 18 Jul 2013
- Inequalities research videos now available on YouTube 17 Jul 2013
- Teaching Systems must be strengthened for universal schooling to pay off 16 Jul 2013
- Plenary sessions now available to view online 11 Jul 2013