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Why do some people remain resilient to social inequalities?

Research on social inequalities tends to compare the chances of individuals from different social backgrounds and make assumptions about their long term success or failure on a particular outcome. For example, social mobility research typically examines the relationship between family socio-economic status and labour market destinations, the hypothesis being that those from more deprived backgrounds will fare less well (Breen 2004; Paterson and Iannelli 2007). Very little attention has been given to studying the life-course of those individuals from less advantaged social backgrounds who manage to break the vicious cycle of social reproduction (‘resilient people’) and become upwardly mobile, whether in terms of education, social class or labour market outcomes.

This research analyses (1) the features of these resilient people and the factors (individual, family and contextual) which contributed to their success in the face of adversity; and (2) childhood and youth experiences that helped them to build resilience and develop positive outcomes later in life.

Click through to the research papers below for more information:

Against all odds: Enabling factors in early childhood for cognitive outcomes

Social inequalities in attaining higher education in Scotland: New evidence from sibling data

Social inequalities in occupational outcomes: using sibling data to estimate the effect of family of origin and the role of education

Policy implications

The research is highly relevant to current policy in Scotland because it will provide robust evidence around the Scottish Government’s sixteen National Outcomes for making Scotland a ‘fairer society’, providing ‘our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed’ and improve ‘the life chances for children, young people and families at risk’. We anticipate that the research findings from these projects will give policymakers crucial insights into how to reduce social differences in life-course outcomes.

Research Team