TACKLING INEQUALITIES IN THE EARLY YEARS: KEY MESSAGES FROM 10 YEARS OF THE GROWING UP IN SCOTLAND STUDY
The report draws together key messages from 10 years of the Growing Up in Scotland Study. By comparing outcomes for and experiences of children in households with higher and lower incomes it summarises what the study has revealed about inequalities up to age 8, explores whether there is any evidence that the socio-economic gap has narrowed or widened in recent years and highlights some key messages from the study about to improve outcomes for all children and to reduce inequalities.
Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) is a Scottish Government funded longitudinal study that is currently tracking the lives of two cohorts of children from across Scotland. Children in the older cohort (known as Birth Cohort 1 or BC1) were born in 2004/05 and at time of publication will be around age 11. Children in the younger cohort (known as Birth Cohort 2
or BC2) were born in 2010/11 and at time of publication will be around age five. The children in each cohort were selected at random from Child Benefit records and are representative of all children of these ages in Scotland. Across these two cohorts GUS is tracking the lives of approximately 10,000 children.
In October 2015, it will be 10 years since the launch of the study. This report draws together findings from 10 years of analysis of the GUS data to highlight how the study has contributed to the evidence base on children and families in Scotland, in particular on the extent of and how to reduce inequalities in outcomes in the early years. This theme was selected to coincide with the 'Fairer Scotland' discussion. This was launched in June 2015 to engage with the public on what a fairer Scotland should look like and to strengthen the participation of marginalised communities within this debate. Evidence from GUS has already been used in the discussion paper to highlight inequalities in the early years but there is more evidence in this paper that can reveal how we realise our aspiration to live in a country in which, where you are born, where you live or who you are does not stop you having the opportunity to reach your full potential.
The first section of the report draws on the cross-sectional data collected from both cohorts (from 2005 to 2013) to provide an overview of a range of inequalities in outcomes and experiences for children aged 10 months to eight years. Inequality in GUS is defined as the unequal socio-economic patterning of outcomes and risk factors that disadvantage less affluent children. GUS uses various measures of socio-economic status including: equivalised household income; area deprivation; parental level of education; and maternal age at the time of the child's birth. The study has revealed that inequalities exist across all of these measures but to keep this report concise, the focus here is on inequalities experienced by children in different income groups. Comparisons are drawn between those in the highest and lowest fifth of earners (top and bottom quintiles).
The second section of the report compares data collected from each cohort at the same age. Ten years after GUS was launched, there are now two points of comparison between BC1 and BC2: at age 10 months and shortly before the children's third birthdays. The comparisons at 10 months are between outcomes/experience in 2005/06 and 2011 and the comparisons around the age of three are between those in 2007/08 and 2013. By comparing circumstances and experiences at these two ages it is possible to explore not only whether there has been any progress in improving outcomes for children in Scotland across these years, but also whether there is any evidence that inequality in experiences and outcomes have widened or narrowed in the recent years.
The final section draws on the longitudinal data, collected from the oldest cohort, about the relationship between early experiences and later outcomes. It highlights some key messages about how to improve prospects for all children, but particularly those living in disadvantaged circumstances and, in doing so, reduce the gap between the least and most socio-economically advantaged children in Scotland.
All changes highlighted in this report are statistically significant.
Email: Liz Levy
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