Working Paper Series

Working Paper Series

The Department of Social Policy multidisciplinary working paper series publishes high quality research papers across the broad field of social policy.

Latest publication

The lasting effects of natural disasters on property crime: evidence from the 2010 Chilean earthquake
Jorge García Hombrados

Abstract

Natural disasters cause human losses, destroy economic assets and are often followed by widespread looting and altruistic behaviours of many individuals; affecting ambiguously the long-term benefits and costs of committing crime. Using household data from victimisation surveys and a difference in difference strategy, the analysis shows that municipalities exposed to the 8.8 Richter magnitude earthquake that struck Chile in February 2010 experienced lasting reductions in the prevalence of property crime. The analysis reveals that the drop in property crime in these areas is closely linked to the positive effect of the earthquake on the strength of community life and the subsequent adoption of community-based crime prevention measures.

Key words: Natural disasters; crime; social capital.

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2019

Stalling of mortality in the United Kingdom and Europe: an analytical review of the evidence
Michael Murphy, Marc Luy and Orsola Torrisi

Abstract

Improvement in UK mortality rates has declined substantially in this decade and the overall value is now close to zero, a finding which has become politically controversial. A similar but less severe change has been observed in some neighbouring European countries, and the US has exhibited a longer term deterioration in mortality improvement. We review the literature and associated commentary on this phenomenon. These UK trends are observed across sex and age groups, but appear to be more marked in more deprived areas. We assess the hypotheses that have been put forward to explain these trends within a framework that distinguishes between short-term fluctuations and longer-term underlying trends; in particular, the role of seasonal influenza, changes in cardio-vascular disease mortality, Government austerity measures and tempo effects. We conclude that that there is no clear evidence for any specific explanation or combination of causes and that additional studies, especially those including cross-national comparisons are needed.

Key words: Life expectancy; UK mortality trends; Europe mortality trends; Influenza; Austerity.

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Female genital cutting and education: theory and causal evidence from Senegal
Jorge García Hombrados and Edgar Salgado

Abstract

We use across-ethnic-group variation in exposure to a law that banned the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in Senegal to evaluate the impact of the law and to document the perverse effect that this cultural practice has on girls’ education. We find that the law, interpreted as a rise in the cost of FGC, reduced the prevalence of FGC, which later increased educational investments received by girls. To explain this result, we propose a theoretical model where, consistent with previous evidence, both education and FGC lead to better marriage market outcomes. In line with the predictions of the model, the results suggest that education and FGC work as substitutes in the marriage market and that educational investments are affected by the cost of alternative pre-marital investments. Additionally, we rule out alternative mechanisms, such as a broader change in gender norms, better health or fewer adolescent women leaving school to get married, to explain why the law increased educational investments. Keywords: Female genital cutting, education, harmful traditions.

Key words: Female genital cutting, education, harmful traditions.

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Read the related blog post here.

Preterm births and educational disadvantage: heterogenous effects across families and schools
Anna Baranowska-Rataj, Kieron Barclay, Joan Costa-Font, Mikko Myrskylä and Berkay Özcan

Abstract

Although preterm births are the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality in advanced economies, evidence about the consequences of such births later in life is limited. Using Swedish population register data on cohorts born 1982-1994 (N=1,087,750), we examine the effects of preterm births on school grades using sibling fixed effect models which compare individuals with their non-preterm siblings. We test for heterogeneous effects by degree of prematurity, as well as whether family socioeconomic resources and school characteristics can compensate for any negative effects of premature births. Our results show that preterm births can have negative effects on school grades, but these negative effects are largely confined to children born extremely preterm (<28 weeks of gestation, i.e. born at least 10 weeks earlier). Children born moderately preterm (i.e. born up to 5 weeks early) suffer no ill effects. We do not find any evidence for the moderating effect of parental socioeconomic resources. Our results indicate that school environment is very important for the outcomes of preterm born children, such that those born extremely preterm that are in the top decile of schools have as good grades as those born full-term that are in an average school. However, good schools appear to lift scores for all groups, and as a result that gap between extremely preterm and full-term children remains also in the best schools. This highlights the role of schools as institutions that may either reduce or reinforce the early life course disadvantage.

Key words: SEN, disability, social isolation, loneliness, life-course

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Growing up lonely? Exploring the social outcomes of three generations identified with special education needs or disabilities in childhood
Samantha Parsons and Lucinda Platt

Abstract

Social isolation and loneliness currently have high prominence on the political agenda in the UK. While social isolation can affect anyone and at all stages across the life-course, some are more vulnerable than others. One risk factor for poorer social outcomes is disability, which is itself often compounded with social disadvantage. We draw on data from three British longitudinal studies to examine social outcomes of those identified with special educational needs or disabilities when they were teenagers. We compare three different generations, born between 1958 and 2000/02, across a range of measures of social engagement and social support experienced in their 50s, 20s and teens, respectively. This gives us insight both into the long-term consequences of childhood disability for social engagement and social support, but also enables us to evaluate for the younger cohorts the early indications of such future lifecourse patterns. We find substantial differences in social support and social engagement among 50-year olds. Moreover, despite successive governments agreeing that those with disabilities deserve a better deal out of life, today’s disabled youth and teenagers also experience greater social isolation than their non-disabled contemporaries. We discuss the implications of our findings.

Key words: SEN, disability, social isolation, loneliness, life-course

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Read the related blog post here.

Reducing Mommy Penalties with Daddy Quotas
Allison Dunatchik and Berkay Özcan

Abstract

This paper investigates whether non-transferable paternity leave policies - known as daddy quotas - mitigate 'motherhood penalties' women face in employment and wages in the labor market. Using the introduction of a daddy quota in Quebec, Canada as a quasi-natural experiment, the authors employ national survey data to conduct a difference-in-difference estimation of the impact of the policy on mothers’ labor force participation, full-time and part-time employment, and hourly wages. The results indicate that the policy substantially increased mothers’ participation in paid work - Quebec mothers exposed to the policy are 7% more likely to participate in the labor force, 5-6% more likely to work full-time and 4-5% less likely to work part-time. These results are robust to an alternative semi-parametric difference-in-difference methodology and to a battery of placebo tests. The analysis suggests a lag between policy implementation and observable effects, with impacts increasing with time.

Key words: family policy, gender roles, parental leave, work, work-family issues

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Inter-ethnic relations of teenagers in England's schools: the role of school and neighbourhood ethnic composition
Simon Burgess and Lucinda Platt

Abstract

The paper presents an empirical analysis of inter-ethnic relations among adolescents in England’s schools, the first national study of schools throughout England to relate inter-ethnic attitudes to both school and area ethnic composition. We combine survey data on ‘warmth’ of feeling for specific ethnic groups, friendships and attitudes with administrative data on the shares of those groups at school and area level. We confirm that the pupils have warmer feelings for their own ethnic group than for others. Second, we show that in schools with more pupils from another ethnic group the gap between a pupil’s views of those from her own group and from another ethnic group is smaller. This is true for attitudes of the majority and of minority ethnic groups. Third, we show that school composition (interpreted as contact) mitigates area composition (interpreted as exposure).

Key words: ethnicity, attitudes, contact, children, school context

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Two Become One: Improving the Targeting of Conditional Cash Transfers With a Predictive Model of School Dropout
Cristian Crespo

Abstract

This paper analyses whether a common targeting mechanism of conditional cash transfers (CCTs), an income-proxy means test (PMT), can identify the poor and future school dropouts effectively. Despite both being key target groups for CCTs, students at risk of dropping out are rarely considered for CCT allocation and in targeting assessments. Using rich administrative datasets from Chile to simulate different targeting mechanisms, I compare the targeting effectiveness of a PMT with other mechanisms based on a predictive model of school dropout. I build this model using machine learning algorithms, one of their first applications for school dropout in a developing country. I show that using the outputs of the predictive model in conjunction with the PMT increases targeting effectiveness except when the social valuation of the poor and future school dropouts differs to a large extent. Public officials that value these two target groups equally may improve CCT targeting by modifying their allocation procedures.

Key words: conditional cash transfers, targeting, school dropout prediction, machine learning, proxy means tests

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Cash for Grades or Money for Nothing? Evidence from Regression Discontinuity Designs
Cristian Crespo

Abstract

This paper estimates the impact of a Chilean cash for grades programme, the Bono por Logro Escolar (BLE) in 2013, on future educational outcomes. The cash transfer was targeted using two scores from 2012, an income index and academic performance. I implement a sharp regression discontinuity design along these two running variables. I show that students marginally at each side of the two thresholds used only differed in receiving the BLE in 2013. The main causal estimates for the outcomes are not statistically significantly different from zero. Additionally, the main causal estimates are centred around zero and their standard errors are small. If a local average effect of the BLE in 2013 exists this is at best modest in magnitude. Any potential impact of the BLE in 2013 would have been at least smaller than those found in developing countries, where effects of at least 0.17 of a standard deviation on test scores have been observed.

Key words: cash for grades, regression discontinuity, bono por logro escolar, cash transfers

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Social Policy with Tunnel Vision: The problems of state efforts to curb adolescent pregnancy in Post 1988 Brazil
Beatriz Burattini

MSc Dissertation

Abstract

This paper examines how conceptualisations of adolescence and adolescent pregnancy by the Brazilian state between 1989 and 2010 have shaped social policy addressing adolescent pregnancy. This was examined based on policy documents and public health indicators concerned with adolescent pregnancy. According to this data, adolescents were initially seen as a homogenous group vulnerable to pregnancy as a health risk. While parts of the government began to perceive adolescents as more heterogeneous individuals with agency and responsibility in the 2000s, health indicators lagged behind. Adolescents’ intersecting identities, characteristics of the men and boys who impregnate girls and the extent to which adolescent pregnancies were planned or not were key social factors that were often ignored. Moreover, adolescent pregnancy was largely medicalised. This led to narrow social policy approaches to adolescent pregnancy which ignored the wider social contexts of diverse adolescents in Brazil. Based on two examples, I show how this unidimensional focus ignores the lack of opportunities offered to disadvantaged adolescents by the Brazilian education system and labour market, which make pregnancy more attractive than desired by the state. My second example highlights how the invisibility of the father in health indicators contributes to the idea that adolescent pregnancy only affects adolescents, instead of highlighting gendered inequalities that affect Brazilian society as a whole, including other age groups.

Key words: adolescent pregnancy, sexual citizenship, legibility, health indicators, medicalisation

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Social entrepreneurship before neoliberalism? The life and work of Akhtar Hameed Khan
David Lewis

Abstract

The life history method can be used to historicise the study of social and public policy. Reviewing the life and work of Pakistani social entrepreneur A.H. Khan provides a useful reminder that what Jyoti Sharma recently termed ‘the neoliberal takeover of social entrepreneurship’ is a relatively recent phenomenon. While Khan’s achievements across the public and non-governmental (NGO) sectors continue to be debated amongst scholars and activists in South Asia, his life and work – which is not well known in the Global North as it perhaps should be – highlights a much broader and more inclusive way of thinking about the social entrepreneur as an organiser of change.

Keywords: social entrepreneurship; non-governmental organisations (NGOs); community development; public administration; rural development; life history

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A different perspective on the evolution of UK income inequality
A.B. Atkinson and Stephen P. Jenkins

Abstract

This paper scrutinizes the conventional wisdom about trends in UK income inequality and also places contemporary inequality in a much longer historical perspective. We combine household survey and income tax data to provide better coverage of all income ranges from the bottom to the very top. We make a case for studying distributions of income between tax units (i.e. not assuming the full income sharing that goes with the use of the household as the unit of analysis) for reasons of principle as well as data harmonization. We present evidence that income inequality in the UK is as least as high today as it was just before the start of World War 2.

Key words: inequality, tax unit, household, Gini coefficient, income tax data, household survey data, HBA1, SPI

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2018

Perspectives on poverty in Europe
Stephen P. Jenkins

Abstract

I address four topics: how our capacities to monitor poverty in Europe have improved substantially over recent decades; how progress on EU poverty reduction has been disappointing and why this has been; conceptual and measurement issues; and the future direction of EU-level anti-poverty actions. I follow in the footsteps of a giant – my perspectives are essentially elaborations of points made by Tony Atkinson.

Key words: poverty, material deprivation, Europe, EU-SILC

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What are the factors that lead to the disengagement in activism over an individual's lifetime in the Global South?
Daniel Silver

MSc Dissertation

Abstract

In light of the limited social movement literature, this paper aims to hypothesise the reasons why individuals in the Global South disengage from activism, making activism unsustainable over a lifetime. The paper analyses the reasons put forward by scholars to explain initial activist participation, inferring from this that four lenses are vital to utilise in order to understand why disengagement may occur. Through these four lenses: (1) the political economy of activism; (2) the socio-cultural pressures of the Global South; (3) the issue of identity construction and (4) a post-structuralist lens to further examine the importance of the construction of identity and collective action frames, it is demonstrated that particular structural and cultural pressures exist in the Global South which limit individuals from sustaining activism over their lifetime. It is concluded that activism in the Global South should be regarded with caution. Rather than assuming that activism may lead to change, it should be considered more soberly, taking into account the considerable barriers that individuals face in the context of the Global South.

Key words: Activism, social movements, sustainability, civil society

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NGOs and the success paradox: Gay activism 'after' HIV/AIDS in China
Timothy Hildebrandt

Abstract

What happens to NGOs when they succeed in meeting key goals, when the issues around which activists mobilize are no longer of interest to those granting them economic and political opportunities? How do they deal with success? This paper presents the case of gay activism in China, which has risen largely because of HIV/AIDS. While the virus persists, international interest has waned, resulting in fewer opportunities for gay activists in the country. The paper draws upon insights of gay activists’ responses in the US and Europe and formulates hypotheses for how Chinese gay activism might navigate the success paradox. It explores potential adaptive techniques by viewing them through a political economy lens of gay activism in China, demonstrating how context-specific conditions might limit the options for NGOs dealing with success. In doing so, it contains important insights for NGOs and civil society beyond China and LGBT rights.

Keywords: NGOs, LGBT, HIV/AIDS, China, development, aid

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