Exploring the early environment and childhood development at the second DIAL workshop at Newcastle

Newcastle conference report 13. – 14th January 2020

The second DIAL thematic workshop – Education for Life – was organized on 13th and 14th of January 2020 at the Newcastle University. Researchers from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Finland gathered together to present and discuss their ongoing research. The presentations of this two-day workshop covered topics such as socioeconomic differences in child development, with a special focus on linguistic and behavioural development, preterm babies, maternal mental health and social mobility. The conference finished with a vivid discussion on science communication to political actors and practitioners.

First day

Cramman (SEED) started the first workshop day by presenting findings on the “Monitoring Practical Science in School and Colleges” study conducted in England and Scotland. The results indicate that introducing more practical science, an important material in preparing students for laboratory-based courses at university, did not enhance students’ grades. Instead, many schools struggled to provide the necessary facilities for practical science in general and were unable to introduce more practical science to begin with. Labuschange (SEED) demonstrated in her presentation that language development below or above normal limits at 18 to 48 months is associated with stuttering onset at the age of nine among Dutch children. Kirkman (SEED) investigated the association between class identity and smoking, showing that it remained significant even after controlling for the individual’s economic situation. The results indicate that at least in the UK, class identity can be an important explanation for why smoking is more popular among the working class than the middle class. The next two presentations focused on the risk factors related to preterm birth. Lemola (PremLife) showed that low socioeconomic status and education are associated with a higher risk of preterm birth, but the social gradient has decreased among the latest birth cohorts. Schintzlein (PremLife) showed that especially the mother’s poor mental health during pregnancy increases the risk of having a preterm birth.

The last presentations of the day concentrated on child language skills. Attig (SEED) presented results highlighting how mother’s education, sensitivity and stimulating behaviour as well as mother-child interaction and joint book reading were all associated with better language skills at the age of two among German children. Barone’s (LIFETRACK) presentation dealt with a field experiment that took place in public schools located in low-income districts of the city of Paris. In this study, schoolchildren and their parents were provided with books and information on the benefits of shared book reading. The results showed that especially low educated parents were more responsive to the intervention and their children benefitted the most in terms of improved language skills. Karwath (SEED) demonstrated that poverty has detrimental effects on the child’s early vocabulary and grammar. Lastly, Huang (SEED) presented results on the impact of socioeconomic status on 5 years old’s socio-emotional development via parental distress and behaviour in the UK and Germany. The results show that while socioeconomic status is an important predictor of language development, more precise effects of the socioeconomic status and parental distress and behaviour varied between the countries.

Second day

The second day consisted of presentations, keynote speeches and discussions on possible policy implications and how to reach policy makers. First, Willoughy (SEED) presented on the difficulty in identifying strict thresholds for assessing functional language difficulties. Next, Rush and Law (SEED) talked about the problems related to a common confusion between association and causation and the possible pitfalls in this field; emphasizing the need to understand well the nature of mediation analysis when utilizing it. Next, Jansen (SEED) showed how children’s socio-emotional-, cognitive- and motor-developmental trajectories vary by socioeconomic position (SEP) in the Netherlands. Children from lower SEP families have more developmental problems at baseline, but the inequalities diminish as the children grow. Further, girls outperformed boys in all developmental outcomes across SEP groups.

Anna Vignoles (HuCIAW) held the first keynote speech on socioeconomic differences in the UK educational system, and how this inequality continues in labour market outcomes. She demonstrated that despite the ‘student’s choice’ being the basis of the English educational system, this does not hold. Instead, students’ aspirations, attitudes and actions are greatly influenced by their socioeconomic background, ultimately determining their educational routes. The second keynote speech was given by Paul Bradshaw who presented the collection and updates of the Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS) as well as the possible impacts of the study findings on policy development.

Lastly, a good hour was spent on discussing science communication to a non-academic audience, and on the possibilities and challenges related to policy briefs. As Tuesday came to an end, some headed home, and some continued with internal projects meetings the next day. Hopefully, everybody was left with an inspiration to continue with the research for the last remaining year of the DIAL projects. We hope to see everyone in future DIAL meetings!


Can We Really Rely on Income Distribution Statistics? Some Issues in the Swedish Data

The Swedish Income Distribution Statistics have shown rising gaps in disposable income since the early 1980s. Several reports have shown that capital income is an important driver behind this development. I identify several weaknesses in the measurement of capital income in these statistics. One weakness is that realised capital gains, which generally are included in Swedish reports on income distribution but not in cross-national ones, are not adjusted for inflation from 1991 and onwards but were so until 1990. A considerable part of the capital gains included in data is thus compensation for inflation and not real gains. Further, there is a considerable rise in income shifting from earned income to capital income in closely held corporations and a decline of income shifting from capital income to pension income. New modes of saving, which are taxed according to a standard revenue principle, will most likely create severe problems for the Statistics in the near future but have not done so yet. A final section of the paper argues that the statistics do not account for the rising prevalence of shared residence for children of separated parents. Therefore, the statistics underestimate the economic standard of children with separated parents.

The baby year parental leave reform in the GDR and its impact on children’s long-term life satisfaction

This article investigates the effects of an increase in paid parental leave — twelve months instead of five months — on children’s long-term life satisfaction. The historical setting under study, namely the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), allows us to circumvent problems of selection of women into the labor market and an insufficient or heterogeneous non-parental child care supply, which are issues many other studies on parental leave reforms face. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) we analyze the birth cohorts from 1980 to 1989 at adult age, and apply a difference-in-difference design making use of the very specific timing of the GDR’s parental leave reforms in 1976 and 1986. We find significant and robust positive long-term parental leave effects on now-adult children’s life satisfaction. Further results suggest that a driving factor of the increase in life satisfaction is a better health for males and individuals with high educated mothers, and personality

Workplace Contact and Support for Anti-Immigration Parties

This paper studies the consequences of an increased presence of immigrants in the workplace on anti-immigration voting behavior by combining detailed Swedish workplace data with election outcomes for a large antiimmigration party (the Sweden Democrats). At each election precinct, we match the election outcomes with the share of non-European co-workers among the average native-born worker for three consecutive elections between 2006 and 2014. Using a fixed effects approach, we estimate a negative effect of an increased share of non-Europeans in the workplace on support for the Sweden Democrats: a one standard deviation increase in the average share of non-European co-workers decreases the precinct vote share for the Sweden Democrats by roughly 0.4 percentage points. We show that these results are solely driven by within-skill contact, and by contact within occupations that are less exposed to job loss. We interpret the results as supporting the contact hypothesis: that increased interactions with minorities reduce prejudice among native-born voters, which leads to lower support for antiimmigration parties.

No stratified effect of unemployment on incomes. How the market, state and household compensate for income loss in the UK and Switzerland

Unemployment is a critical life event that may affect the income trajectories of displaced workers very unequally. It may trigger a process of cumulative disadvantage and hit vulnerable groups hardest. Alternatively, it may level the playing field because higher classes have more to lose. We analyze heterogeneous effects of an unemployment spell on income for Britain and Switzerland. Our analysis is based on two household panels – UK Understanding Society 2009-2017 and the Swiss Household Panel 1999-2017 – and distinguishes two sources of income, from the labor market and welfare state, at two different levels, the individual and households. We match unemployed to employed workers and estimate fixed-effects regressions. Our results show that individual labor income drops in the two years after an unemployment spell by 20 and 25% in Switzerland and by 25 and 55% in the UK. Welfare state transfers reduce these losses by half in Switzerland, but have only a marginal impact in the UK at both the individual and household level. In both countries, income losses do not differ much across social classes. We thus find no evidence for a cumulative disadvantage. The lower classes are at greater risk of becoming unemployed, but this does not automatically translate into greater vulnerability to its consequences.

Application of the EU-SILC 2011 data module “intergenerational transmission of disadvantage” to robust analysis of inequality of opportunity

This data article describes the original data, the sample selection process and the variables used in Andreoli and Fusco (Andreoli and Fusco, 2019) to estimate gap curves for a sample of European countries. Raw data are from 2011 roaster of EU-SILC, cross-sectional sample of module “intergenerational transmission of disadvantage”. This article reports descriptive statistics of the using sample. It also discusses the algorithm adopted to estimate the main effects and details the content of additional Stata files stored on the online repository. These additional files contain raw estimates from bootstrapped samples, which form the basis for estimating gap curves and their variance-covariance matrices. The data article also reports representations of gap curves for all 16 selected countries.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Earnings in Later-Life Self-Employment

Recent studies have shown that individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are relatively often engaged in self-employment. We analyze whether self-employment mediates the relationship between ADHD and earnings. To overcome endogeneity concerns in the estimation of this relationship, we use the polygenic risk score (PRS) for ADHD. In our longitudinal sample of 7,905 individuals (50–65 years old) from the Health and Retirement Study, a standard deviation increase in the PRS for ADHD increases the odds of self-employment by 32% and decreases yearly earnings by 5%. Self-employment explains (mediates) 59% of the negative relationship between the PRS for ADHD and earnings.

ADHD and later-life labor market outcomes in the United States

This study analyzes the relation between attention-defcit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and later-life labor market outcomes in the United States and whether these relationships are mediated by educational attainment. To overcome endogeneity concerns in the estimation of these relationships, we exploit the polygenic risk score (PRS) for ADHD in a cohort where the diagnosis of and treatment for ADHD were generally not available. We fnd that an increase in the PRS for ADHD reduces the likelihood of employment, individual income, and household wealth. Moreover, it increases the likelihood of receiving social security disability benefts, unemployment or worker compensation, and other governmental transfers. We provide evidence that educational attainment mediates these relationships to a considerable extent (14–58%).

Effect of Genetic Propensity for Obesity on Income and Wealth Through Educational Attainment

Objective: This study contributes to the literature on the income and wealth consequences of obesity by exploiting recent discoveries about the genetic basis of BMI.
Methods: The relation between a genetic risk score (GRS) for BMI, which reflects the genetic predisposition to have a higher body weight, and income and wealth was analyzed in a longitudinal data set comprising 5,962 individuals (22,490 individual‐year observations) from the US Health and Retirement Study.
Results: Empirical analyses showed that the GRS for BMI lowers individual income and household wealth through the channel of lower educational attainment. Sex‐stratified analyses showed that this effect is particularly significant among females.
Conclusions:This study provides support for the negative effects of the GRS for BMI on individual income and household wealth through lower education for females. For males, the effects are estimated to be smaller and insignificant. The larger effects for females compared with males may be due to greater labor market taste‐based discrimination faced by females.

Understanding the education gap in immigration preferences across countries over time: A decomposition approach

The structure and dynamics of the education gap in immigration preferences are not well understood. Does the gap increase when the economy contracts? To what extent does the gap reflect labour market conflicts versus value polarization? Does the structure of the gap change with labour market and refugee shocks? I use European Social Survey data to decompose the gap into parts reflecting labour market position, social background, and value orientation, and explore how their importance in accounting for the gap change over time. I find no uniform trends in preferences or in the size of the gap, but the gap varies with the unemployment rate and the strength of trade unions. Moreover, positions in the labour market are more important for the gap in times of high unemployment, at the expense of the importance of value orientations. The results show the enduring importance of labour market conflicts for the gap.

Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course (DIAL) is a multi-disciplinary research programme consisting of thirteen European projects. The projects examine the sources, structures and consequences of inequalities in contemporary societies. The programme is funded by NORFACE for the period 2017–2021.

EU flag shown in acknowledgment of EU funding

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 724363

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