Working papers

Here you can search our series of working papers, dating back to 1983. These papers use data from our four cohort studies and cover a wide range of topics, from social inequalities and mobility, to physical health, education and cognitive development. Other papers in the series seek to improve the practice of longitudinal research. At the present time, we are only able to accept papers if at least one author is a member of the CLS research team. Some of the working papers below will subsequently have been published in peer-reviewed journals.

For more information about our working papers series, please email us at clsworkingpapers@ucl.ac.uk.

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Working papers

Trust in government, trust in others and compliance with social distancing: findings from the CLS COVID-19 web survey across four National Longitudinal Studies during 2020-2021

Author: Sam Parsons and Richard Wiggins
Date published: 20 October 2022
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Only children and cognitive ability in childhood: a cross-cohort analysis over 50 years in the UK – CLS Working Paper 2022/8

Using data from four British birth cohorts, we investigate whether the association between being an only child and cognitive ability in childhood has changed over time. Findings show that only children have higher cognitive scores than children from larger families. However, the ‘only child advantage’ has weakened across cohorts as the composition of the only child group has become more associated with disadvantage. The results highlight diversity in only children whose characteristics are conditional on changes throughout time and society.

Author: Alice Goisis, Jenny Chanfreau, Vanessa Moulton and George B. Ploubidis
Date published: 26 September 2022
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Working papers

Intergenerational transmission of educational disadvantage: Educational progression of children of care leavers compared to other children in a general population sample – CLS Working Paper 2022/7

There is persistent evidence showing that care-leavers tend to have lower educational outcomes than their peers. However, less is known on whether this educational disadvantage transfers to the second generation. Drawing on data collected from families living in England in the nationally representative UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), the findings suggest intergenerational transmission of educational disadvantage, but that once socioeconomic inequalities are accounted for, children of care-leavers perform comparably to their peers in their educational progression to GCSE level. Findings are discussed regarding implications for policy.

Author: Sam Parsons, Emla Fitzsimons, Ingrid Schoon
Date published: 6 September 2022
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The forgotten fifth: Examining the early education trajectories of teenagers who fall below the expected standards in GCSE English language and maths examinations at age 16 – CLS Working Paper 2022/6

Successive Governments have failed to address an issue that continues to plague the British education system: many teenagers leave secondary school without the ‘expected standard’ of a grade 4 pass in GCSE English language and maths. We use the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) to find that half of pupils who fail at age 16 were behind at age 5. Future attempts to improve standards in English and maths will likely only succeed if high quality support is provided during the pre-school and early years.

Author: Lee Elliot Major, Sam Parsons
Date published: 1 September 2022
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Examining the quality and sample representativeness of linked survey and administrative data – CLS Working Paper 2022/5

Recent years have seen an increase in linkages between cohort and administrative data. It is important to evaluate the quality of such data linkages to discern the likely reliability of research using the linked data resource. In this paper we consider a recent linkage between the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), a cohort following the lives of an initial 17,415 people born in Great Britain in a single week of 1958, and Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) databases, which contain details of all admissions, accident and emergency attendances and outpatient appointments at NHS hospitals in England.

Author: Richard J Silverwood, Nasir Rajah, Lisa Calderwood, Bianca L De Stavola, Katie Harron and George B Ploubidis
Date published: 13 June 2022
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Working papers

Special educational needs and disability: a lifetime of disadvantage in the labour market? – CLS Working Paper 2022/4

Disabled adults face substantial labour market disadvantage. There is, however, variation in employment and earnings by age and educational level. Since much disability occurs in later life, and labour market disadvantage can lead to disability as well as vice versa, we currently have limited understanding of how far disabled people’s current disadvantage represents the cumulative impact of disability. We also lack insight into how far policy changes have managed to reduce the gap for younger cohorts. These are the contributions of this paper. Using data from two British longitudinal studies we investigate economic outcomes in their mid-20s for those who were identified with a Special Education Need or disability (SEN(D)) when at secondary school in either the 1970s or 2000s.

Author: Sam Parsons and Lucinda Platt
Date published: 23 May 2022
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Defining and Identifying Only Children – CLS Working Paper 2022/3

Despite increasing interest in the circumstances and outcomes of only children and increasing family complexity, the conceptualisation of only children has received limited scholarly attention. We raise issues involved in defining and identifying only children in social survey data, reflecting on the decisions researchers need to take. Illustrating the discussion with descriptive analyses of four British large-scale birth cohorts, we show it is possible to identify groups of individuals who correspond to different definitions of only children.

Author: Jenny Chanfreau and Alice Goisis
Date published: 27 April 2022
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Working papers

Effects of a time-limited push-to-web incentive in a mixed-mode longitudinal study of young adults – CLS Working Paper 2022/2

An early bird push-to-web incentive experiment was conducted in the eighth follow-up of the Next Steps cohort study, which follows the lives of a nationally representative sample of around 16,000 people in England born in 1989-90. In this working paper, we investigate the impact of the early bird web-push incentive on response rates – after three weeks and by the end of fieldwork – and assess whether it had a differential impact on subgroups hence affecting the sample composition.

Author: Lisa Calderwood, Darina Peycheva and Erica Wong
Date published: 21 February 2022
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Working papers

Fast Food and Childhood Obesity: Evidence from Great Britain – CLS working paper 2022/1

We study whether proximity to fast food restaurants affects childhood obesity. We use the UK Millennium Cohort Study – a nationally representative, longitudinal study – linked with highly granular geocoded food outlet data to measure the availability of fast foods around children’s homes and schools from ages 7 to 14. We find, for certain children, in particular those with maternal education below degree level and those with lower self-regulation, that living near fast food restaurants is associated with increased Body Mass Index.

Author: Nicolás Libuy, David Church, George B. Ploubidis and Emla Fitzsimons
Date published: 17 January 2022
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Working papers

Prevalence and predictors of weapon carrying and use and other offences at age 17: Evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study – CLS working paper 2021/8

Using rich and nationally representative longitudinal data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study about young people, their families, and wider social contexts, the current report aims to provide an understanding of the antecedents and development of offending behaviours. The focus is on self-reported offending when cohort members were age 17, with information on influential factors drawn from throughout childhood.

Author: Aase Villadsen and Emla Fitzsimons
Date published: 30 June 2021
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Working papers

Quantifying the digitisation of everyday lives: Measurement opportunities for large-scale surveys – CLS working paper 2021/7

There is no one way to collect and analyse information about digital activity and behaviour, with methodologies varying from interviews and self-reported questionnaires, to diary studies and website analytics. Self-reports of digital behaviour, though widely used, are subject to measurement error, particularly recall problems. In this report, we aim to identify robust, new measures of online activity including direct objective measures.

Author: Alex Papadopoulos
Date published: 26 March 2021
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Working papers

Using social media in social research: Opportunities for enhancing large-scale surveys – CLS working paper 2021/6

The aim of this scoping review is to identify research methodologies or tools that could
potentially be used to enhance large-scale surveys, and in particular the CLS cohort studies. This review addresses the following research questions: How is social media data used in social research? What are the opportunities and challenges of using social media data? What are the possibilities for enhancing large-scale surveys by linking to social media data?

Author: Madalina Hanc
Date published: 26 March 2021
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