Second DIAL EU Stakeholder meeting: overcoming childhood disadvantages

23 June 2020

DIAL organized its second virtual EU Stakeholder meeting with the topic of overcoming childhood disadvantages on June 23, 2020. Researchers from four DIAL projects (IMCHILD, GUODLCCI, PremLife and SEED) presented their research on the causes and consequences of childhood disadvantages and how these can be addressed in Europe. Representatives from the European Commission’s Social affairs unit (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) and Evidence-based policy and evaluation unit (DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture) took part in the discussion.

The meeting kicked off with introductory words from the DIAL scientific programme co-ordinator Elina Kilpi-Jakonen. This was followed by a presentation by Larissa Zierow from the IMCHILD project. Zierow presented results from two recent research articles. The first article studied the effect of mother’s staying at home for 12 months compared to 5 months on children’s long-term life satisfaction. The results reveal that staying at home for a longer period has a large positive impact on children’s later life satisfaction. The second study examined the impact of expanding the operating hours of universal day care on child development. The results indicate that expanding day care from half day to full day is beneficial especially for children of immigrant background in terms of overall school readiness. However, the study also found a negative effect on socio-emotional development among children from disadvantaged backgrounds. These controversial results could be due to the variation in the quality of the day care between the day care centers and the fact that resources were not necessarily increased sufficiently along with the increased time spent in day care.

Gabriella Conti from the GUODLCCI project presented key results from a range of recent research studies. The studies have found, for example, that the biological development of the fetus varies by neighbourhood socioeconomic status in the UK. A new evaluation of the UK’s Sure Start Programme shows that these family centres decreased health problems in childhood, especially among families in poorer areas. Results on cohort differences in socio-emotional skills show that among the younger cohort (those born in 2000 compared to those born in 1970), boys experience more problems relating to externalizing skills and girls experience more problems relating to internalizing skills. The causes of this remain unclear, but researchers suspect this is due to structural changes: for example, mothers’ average age at birth and the number of unmarried mothers is increasing fast. These pieces of research underline the fact that it is important to invest in prevention and not only in remediation. Further, investments in child health and development should start already before birth.

Sakari Lemola from the PremLife project presented some results on the risk factors, protective factors and consequences of preterm birth. Lemola started by presenting the consequences of being born preterm: the studies conducted in the project show that those born very preterm (born before the 32nd gestational week) are less often highly educated, experience
more often unemployment, are more likely to live on social benefits and experience more often downward social mobility than those born preterm (between gestational weeks 32 and 36) or full term. Preterm children are also less likely to experience a romantic partnership, parenthood and sexual intercourse and they have more mental health problems. Next, Lemola presented some risk factors of preterm birth: low parental socio-economic status and education, parental smoking, mental health problems, multiple births and fertility treatment are associated with a higher risk of delivering a preterm baby. Lastly, Lemola presented some factors that can protect preterm children from adverse outcomes. These include preschool math training, positive parenting, physical activity in adolescence and improvement of self-control.

Helen Wareham from the SEED project presented some findings from the studies conducted in the project. The studies show that socio-economic factors like high levels of parental employment, education and income are key contributors to better child development. However, positive changes in these household socio-economic factors do not necessarily lead to equal and positive results – for example, the effects of family background have been found to vary between genders. Parent-child interactions and home learning environment are important when addressing household inequality. The results demonstrate that there is a need for equal access to early childhood education, and support and opportunities for parents. Further, training and staff development should be provided to those working in teaching professions and early care to improve support for children with sub-clinical conditions (for example, hearing loss that is not severe enough to be diagnosed).

The meeting ended with a lively discussion. First, the difficulties in recognizing and reaching the most vulnerable groups were discussed. For example, children born preterm should be recognized as a vulnerable group throughout their childhood. Further, engaging these groups in interventions is another challenge. Even the most effective intervention programme should be implemented with care to ensure its success. Second, researchers were concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on inequality in children’s development. Many countries have restricted parents from visiting their babies in neonatal intensive care units during the pandemic. This can have detrimental consequences, as parental involvement is crucial especially for vulnerable babies, such as those born preterm. Closing day care centers can affect children’s development and increase social inequalities related to it. Unequal access to online education between children from different socio-economic backgrounds can have a drastic effect on inequality in learning outcomes. Lastly, there was a general consensus about the need for better data. In particular, there is a lack of large-scale longitudinal data on childhood development that would be harmonized across European countries.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on inequality

Researchers from the HUCIAW -project have studied inequality and the potential long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on it.

HuCIAW investigates the role of human capital in shaping inequalities over the life course. The project aims to shed new light on the process of human capital formation during adolescence and adulthood, by examing three inter-related themes: sorting of young people across education pathways; interactions between different investments in human capital and the insurance role of human capital.

1. Covid-19 and the impacts of the pandemic on inequality
Read a report and watch a presentation (below)

2. How are mothers and fathers balancing work and family under lockdown?
Read a report and watch a presentation (below)

3. Learning during the lockdown: real-time data on children’s experiences during home learning
Read a report here.

Publications
Blundell Richard, Costa Dias Monica, Joyce Robert, Xu Xiaowei. 2020. COVID‐19 and Inequalities. Fiscal Studies. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-5890.12232. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1475-5890.12232

Costa Dias Monica, Joyce Robert, Postel‐Vinay Fabien, Xu Xiaowei. 2020. The Challenges for Labour Market Policy during the COVID‐19 Pandemic. Fiscal Studies, 10.1111/1475-5890.12233. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1475-5890.12233

DIAL EU stakeholder meeting: Tackling gender inequality in Europe

16 June 2020

DIAL organized a virtual EU stakeholder meeting with a topic of gender equality on June 16, 2020. Representatives from the European Commission’s gender equality unit (DG Justice and Consumers) and the social investment strategy unit (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), the Democracy and European values unit (DG Research & Innovation), and researchers from four DIAL projects (EQUALLIVES, HUCIAW, DAISIE and CILIA-LGBTQI+) discussed gender equality related to work-life balance, work trajectories, care and retirement.

The meeting began with introductory words from the DIAL scientific programme co-ordinator, Elina Kilpi-Jakonen. This was followed by a presentation by Greet Vermeylen (European Commission). Vermeylen emphasized the importance of gender equality in European policymaking, and presented some ongoing and forthcoming projects on the topic in the European Commission. For example, the EU has recently launched a Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 that consists of three pillars: freedom from gender-based violence and gender stereotypes, thriving in a gender-equal economy, and leading and participating equally throughout society. One of its deliverables is the Work-life Balance Initiative that aims to create a new approach to work-life balance in European level. However, Vermeylen noted that there is a need for high-quality research on these topics and that the research conducted in DIAL is in high demand.

The meeting continued with the presentations by the DIAL researchers. First, Susan Harkness from the EQUALLIVES project gave an overall view on three longitudinal studies conducted in the project. The first study compared life-course trajectories and outcomes at mid-life among women and men. It finds that economically successful life courses were similar across countries consisting mainly of highly educated people with stable high-earning jobs, who were married with children. Women were much less likely to have these economically successful trajectories than men. An interesting finding was also that poor economic trajectories go hand in hand with high fertility in Germany and in the UK, whereas in the Nordic countries, poor economic trajectories were more often characterized by low fertility. The next study examined how childbirth and partnership affect income and poverty risks. The results revealed that in the US, UK and Germany, motherhood leads to earnings and income penalty, leading to a reduction in economic independence. However, the mother’s economic status before childbirth or divorce was an important predictor of the economic status after these events. Especially single motherhood was detrimental in terms of income and poverty. Regardless of economic status preceding single motherhood, most single mothers end up in weak economic positions. Lastly, a third study compared the employment pathways and job characteristics after childbirth among parents. Mothers were more likely to withdraw from full-time employment and the majority of women working full-time stopped working or returned to a part-time job after childbirth. Those who leave the labour market rarely return to work in the 3–5 years after childbirth. Fathers, on the other hand, typically remain in or return to full-time work after childbirth.

Monica Costa-Dias from the HUCIAW project presented some results on the effect of childbirth, work experience and human capital on the gender pay gap in the UK. The results reveal that the gender wage gap has remained at around 20 per cent. Wage inequality between men and women increases faster across the life-course among the highly educated, mostly because among women wages stop increasing after the age of 25. These differences are partly driven by women’s lower participation in paid work and higher participation in part-time work. However, differences in employment levels explain only part of the wage gap, as participation in paid work decreases the least among the highly educated and part-time work increases especially among lower educated mothers. Work experience can also explain only part of the widening disparities. Highly educated women remain more often at full-time work, but working experience is much more valuable for highly educated women. One solution is to offer training, which has been shown to be effective in compensating for the loss of work experience. Women already participate more often than men in training, especially among the highly educated. Lastly, women still have the main responsibility for childcare and they are increasingly responsible also for the household income, especially single mothers. Policies that allow mothers of young children to continue working, such as free full-time childcare, should be implemented.

Aine Ni Léime and Alena Křížková presented some results from the DAISIE project. The studies conducted in five European countries focus on the accumulation of inequalities for seniors in employment, in particular from a gender and health point of view. Retirement policies have divergent effects on different groups of people, and they are very country-specific. For example, until 2019, the Czech Republic was the last country with a gender-specific retirement age. Today, all European countries have increased the retirement age and made it equal across population groups. The studies conducted in the DAISIE project reveal, however, that extending working life should be implemented with caution. For example, those working in physically heavy jobs or precarious jobs typically have poorer health, thus forcing them to extend their working life puts them in a disadvantaged position. Also in a disadvantaged position are women who carry a double burden of unpaid care work at home and often low paid jobs at the labour market. The gender and health impacts should be discussed when planning policies related to family, labour market and pension. In general, extending working life policies should be introduced together with other factors that can motivate continuing at work, and they should take into account different life courses.

The last presentation of the day was given by Ana-Cristina Santos from the CILIA-LGBTQI+ project. The project studies the life-course inequalities among LGBTQI+ Citizens, with a focus on different transitions between school, work and retirement. Despite progressive laws and policies, discrimination based on homo/bi/transphobia persists in school and employment. LGBTQI+ citizens report difficulties related to coming out at work, precariousness, absence of a sense of belonging and mental health issues. They also report an absence of networks of care and support in daily life and end of life plans. Many LGBTQI+ citizens feel a self-imposed pressure to excel in school and in their jobs as a form of protection against potential or actual backlash. To tackle these issues, societies should invest in diversity in education and training, social awareness campaigns, implementation of positive discrimination in the sphere of employment targeting non-binary employees.

The day ended with a lively discussion on the most topical issues on gender equality in Europe. Researchers together with representatives from the European Commission agreed that gender sensitivity in all policies is essential. In addition, a common agreement was found on the most crucial gender-related issues: in order to increase female labour market participation, men should also be encouraged to stay at home with children. Informal care in general, including caring for children, sick, disabled, and elderly, often falls on women’s shoulders. In addition to labour market participation, this has an impact on women’s health, and together these two factors affect gender equality at the time of retirement. Lastly, the causes and the consequences of gender inequality vary by country, which is why policies should to some extent be tailored to different contexts.

Lectures on multidisciplinary inequality research 17-19 August 2020

As part of the Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course (DIAL) summer school, three lectures on multidisciplinary inequality research will also be open for a broader audience. These lectures are sponsored by DIAL (Dynamics of Inequality Across the Lifecourse: structres and process research programme), INVEST (Inequalities, Interventions, and New Welfare State research flagship centre) and TCWR (Turku Centre for Welfare Research).

REGISTER FOR KEYNOTE LECTURES

Register latest on 13 August 2020 here.
We will send the Zoom links to registered participants.

SCHEDULE FOR KEYNOTES LECTURES

Monday 17 August
EEST 11:00-12.30 / CEST 10:00-11.30 / BST 09:00-10.30
Anders Stenberg: Outsourcing Domestic Services and Female Earnings; Panel Register Data Evidence from a Reform

Tuesday 18 August
EEST 11:00-12.30 / CEST 10:00-11.30 / BST 09:00-10.30
Sonia Bhalotra: Infant health, cognitive performance and earnings: Evidence from inception of the welfare state in Sweden

Wednesday 19 August
EEST 11:00-12.30 / CEST 10:00-11.30 / BST 09:00-10.30
Rolf van der Velden: “It’s the skills, stupid!?”, on the role of education on labour market success

SPEAKERS

Anders Stenberg is Associate Professor of Economics at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University. His research focuses on education economics and labour economics. He will be talking about the use of propensity score matching in multidisciplinary inequality research with examples from research on the effects of adult education on labour market outcomes and on outsourcing of domestic work and women’s earnings.

Sonia Bhalotra is Professor of Economics at the University of Essex and Co-Director of the ESRC Centre for Microsocial Change at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER). Her research focuses on the creation of human capital, early childhood development, the long-term benefits of early life health interventions, gender inequality, the political economy of public service provision, intergenerational mobility and the dynamics of mortality, fertility and sex selection. The title of her lecture is Infant health, cognitive performance and earnings: Evidence from inception of the welfare state in Sweden.

Rolf van der Velden is Professor at Maastricht University and director of the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA). He is a sociologist by training. His current research focuses on education and skills development, transition from education to work, knowledge economy and the demand for 21st century skills, skills mismatches and the acquisition and decline of skills over the life course. The title of his lecture is “It’s the skills, stupid!?”, on the role of education on labour market success.

Born preterm or low weight? What could that mean for your relationships and wellbeing later on?

In Episode 4 of Series 3 of the DIAL Podcast, Ayten Bilgin and Marina Mendonça from DIAL’s PremLife project discuss their research looking at the romantic and sexual relationships of adults who were born pre-term or with a low birth weight and the potential knock on effects of that on their physical and mental wellbeing.

Association of Preterm Birth and Low Birth Weight With Romantic Partnership, Sexual Intercourse, and Parenthood in Adulthood: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis is research by Marina Mendonça, Ayten Bilgin and Dieter Wolke and is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Open)

 

 

First 12 months with mum: will you be happier later on?

In Episode 3 of Series 3 of the DIAL Podcast, Katharina Heisig and Larissa Zierow from DIAL’s IMCHILD project discuss their research looking at the impacts of parental leave reform in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). They discuss the happiness outcomes of adults who, as children, as the result of the policy reforms, spent 12 months at home with their mother rather than in State run childcare. 

The baby year parental leave reform in the GDR and its impact on children’s long-term life satisfaction is a DIAL Working Paper by Katharina Heisig and Larissa Zierow from DIAL’s IMCHILD project. 

 

Unemployed parent? How does that affect a teen’s school choices and achievements?

In the second Episode of Series 2 of our podcast looking at research emerging from the Equal Lives project, we talk to Jani Erola and Hannu Lehti from the University of Türku in Finland about their research, The heterogeneous effects of parental unemployment on siblings’ educational outcomes. They use high quality Finnish data and robust methods to see how having an unemployed parent affects how teenage children get on at school. They discuss their findings and what they might mean for those seeking to support the families of people out of work and to reduce inequalities over the life course.

 

Aiming high and missing the mark?

In Episode 2 of Series 3 of the DIAL Podcast, Jesper Fels Birkelund from the Lifetrack project talks about his research looking at the educational aspirations and achievements of the children of immigrants in Denmark. He shares findings from the research and outlines their implications for policy in Denmark and more widely in Europe. 

Aiming high and missing the mark? Educational Choice, Dropout Risk, and Achievement in Upper Secondary Education among Children of Immigrants in Denmark is research by Jesper Fels Birkelund, and is published in the European Sociological Review.