New data release: COSMO Wave 2

News, Data release
21 November 2023

Data from Wave 2 of the COVID Social Mobility and Opportunities (COSMO) study is now available to researchers interested in exploring how COVID-19 and the cost of living crisis has affected the lives of 17–18-year-olds across England.

The COSMO study is led jointly by the UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO), CLS and the Sutton Trust. It is tracking the lives of 11,523 teenagers who were in Year 11 in 2020-21, investigating how the pandemic has shaped – and continues to shape – the life journeys of different groups of young people.

What’s new in Wave 2 data

With the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak significantly reduced, this latest release features data on the different paths young people are now taking towards adulthood, whether they leave education, progress through sixth form or college, take up an apprenticeship or start working.

Wave 2 significantly augments the wider detail about cohort members’ lives, with data collected about their experiences of the cost of living crisis. There is also information collected for the first time on:

  • their sexual orientation
  • any chronic illnesses they may have
  • whether they were UK-born
  • their religion
  • if they had sought support for their mental health.

These new data enhance the information from the first wave of the study, collected during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2021, which focused on how young people’s education, mental health and aspirations were being affected by the pandemic.

Information from young people’s parents

As in the first wave, one of the young person’s parents provided information about their home and family. In Wave 2,  10,678 parents participated, providing details about family life, their attitudes to education, and hopes and expectations about their children’s futures.

Enabling new research on an important generation

Dr Jake Anders, COSMO’s Principal Investigator, said: “We are excited to release the second wave of data from the COSMO study, which continues to generate important evidence about how the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic and social shockwaves have affected young people’s lives.

“Our data highlight the ongoing unequal impacts of the disruption, and position us to understand how it will continue to affect young people’s long-term… prospects.”
Dr Jake Anders, COSMO’s Principal Investigator

“Although the direct upheaval to pupils’ learning caused by the pandemic has abated, our data highlight the ongoing unequal impacts of the disruption, and position us to understand how it will continue to affect young people’s long-term educational and career prospects.

“These invaluable new data will enable researchers to explore who has been most affected by the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, with important new information now collected about their sexual orientation and mental health support. Just as importantly, the study will shed light on the decisions young people have made, and continue to make, at a critical time in their lives as they approach adulthood.”

About the sample

The first wave of the study included more than 13,000 young people who were in Year 11 in 2020-21, attending 782 schools across England. The original sample for the study was drawn from the National Pupil Database, with additional private school sampling.

The study oversampled schools with higher proportions of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minorities to ensure it reflects the full range of experiences of the pandemic.

The Sutton Trust also funded an additional sub-sample of high-achieving pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, to explore whether certain groups of young people face barriers to social mobility.

Further information

Read the COSMO study Wave 2 Data User Guide on the COSMO website.

Access the data

The online survey data from Wave 2 of the COSMO study have been de-identified and are available for researchers to download under End User Licence from the UK Data Service.

To download the data (SN: 9158), visit the UK Data Service website.

Read more

Find out more about initial findings from the data in our news story.

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