Home | Types of Inequality | How Do Inequalities In Childhood Affect Us Now and In Our Later Lives

How do inequalities in childhood affect us now and in our later lives?

Most studies of inequalities have focused on outcomes in young and later adulthood in specific national contexts (chiefly the US and the larger Western European countries). In contrast, the long-term consequences of early years experiences and how these experiences are shaped by institutional factors has been relatively underexplored (Mayer 2009). How best to conceptualise and measure inequalities remains subject to debate, with many studies confining attention to a single measure of social background, such as parental education, on the basis of data availability. Furthermore, the increasing recognition that social groups have diverse experiences across multiple contexts has not been matched by empirical analyses of the interplay between different aspects of social background in shaping outcomes. National birth and child cohort studies provide rich data on the lives of children in their early and middle years, but to date these have been rarely used to explore the development of inequalities across the life course or to analyse cross-national differences (for an exception, see Ermisch et al. 2012).

These studies also offer the potential to adopt a genuinely multi-dimensional approach to analysing children’s family background, disentangling the influences of parental education, social class, household income, family structure and ethnicity on children’s outcomes, as well as analysing intersectionality (e.g. the interplay between gender and social class, between ethnicity and parental education).

More details can be found by clicking through to the research papers below:

  1. The influence of maternal employment and use of non-parental childcare on child outcomes
  2. Growing up with a lone mother in Scotland: the role of employment, childcare and family ties on children’s wellbeing
  3. Maternal employment and the well-being of children living with a lone mother in Scotland
  4. Social disparities in residential mobility and children’s outcomes in early and middle childhood
  5. Different degrees of career success: social origin and graduates’ education and labour market trajectories
  6. Does comprehensive education reduce health inequalities?
  7. Secondary school subjects and gendered STEM enrollment in higher education in Germany, Ireland, and Scotland

Policy implications

We anticipate that the research findings will have important implications for policies across a range of domains, including education, poverty and social inclusion, among others. The findings will help identify potential levers for intervention with disadvantaged children and young people in order to reduce the chances of poor educational and labour market outcomes in the longer term.


Research Team

Professor Marita Jacob
Dr Francesca Fiori
Senior Research Fellow