What Inequality means for Children

Evidence from Young Lives

in The International Journal of Children's Rights
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Understanding how poverty and inequalities impact on children is the major goal of Young Lives, a unique longitudinal, mixed-methods study. Two cohorts totaling 12,000 children are being tracked since 2001, growing-up in Ethiopia, the state of Andhra Pradesh (ap) India, Peru and Vietnam. Earlier versions of this paper were prepared as Young Lives contribution to a unicef/un Women consultation on the post-2015 Development agenda (www.worldwewant2015.org/inequalities) and published as Woodhead, Dornan and Murray (2013).

We summarise Young Lives evidence to date on eight research issues that are central to any child rights agenda:

  1. How inequalities interact in their impact on children’s development and the vulnerability of the most disadvantaged households.

  2. The ways inequalities rapidly undermine the development of human potential.

  3. How gender differences interconnect with other inequalities, but do not always advantage boys in Young Lives countries.

  4. The links between poverty, early ‘stunting’, and later outcomes, including psycho-social functioning, as well as emerging evidence that some children recover.

  5. Inequalities that open up during the later years of childhood, linked to transitions around leaving school, working, and anticipating marriage etc.

  6. Children’s own perceptions of poverty and inequality, as these shape their well-being and long-term prospects.

  7. Evidence of the growing significance of education, including the ways school systems can increase as well as reduce inequalities.

  8. The potential of social protection programmes in poverty alleviation.

We conclude that since inequalities are multidimensional, so too must be the response. Equitable growth policies, education and health services, underpinned by effective social protection, all have a role to play.

What Inequality means for Children

Evidence from Young Lives

in The International Journal of Children's Rights



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    High levels of stunting are linked to multiple disadvantages (Peru, Younger Cohort, age eight in 2009)

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    Large differences in the numbers of shocks and adverse events, especially comparing rural versus urban communities (Ethiopia, families of Younger Cohort children, age eight in 2009)

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    Achievement gap (standard deviations) for cognitive measures (Peru, Younger Cohort, age eight in 2009)

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    Learning trajectories between five and eight years (Andhra Pradesh, India)

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    Gaps in maths scores between boys and girls grow with age, but differences do not always favour boys (Younger Cohort age 8 and Older Cohort age 12 and 15)

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    Differences in maths scores are more marked when combined with other household characteristics rather than gender alone (ap India, Younger Cohort, age eight in 2009)

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    Children who were stunted at age 1 but physically recovered by age 5 have similar test results as children who were never stunted (Peru, Younger Cohort, age five, 2006)

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    Gender differences in responsibilities (Ethiopia, Older Cohort, age 12 in 2006)

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    Feelings of shame reported by 12 year olds, by household expenditure quintile

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    Growth in private sector schools is associated with gender differences (ap India, Younger and Older Cohorts, 2009 with projections to 2016)

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    School enrolment by child age for poorest and least-poor household quintiles (ap India, Older Cohort, 2009)

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    Progress in maths test scores over school year (2011–12) (Vietnam, Younger Cohort, age ten in 2011)


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