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

Browse and filter

Browse working papers by type, study, theme etc. Select one or more filters to refine your search and click the search button below.

Document type

Life Stage


National Child Development Study

Next Steps

1970 British Cohort Study

Millennium Cohort Study

Working papers

What role do enjoyment and students’ perception of ability play in social disparities in subject choices at university?- CLS working paper 2017/12

This study used a large, representative sample of university students studying in England to explore the relationship between student attitudes and socio-economic disparities in subject choices.

Author: Natasha Codiroli Mcmaster
Date published: 29 August 2017
Working papers

Incentivising specific combinations of subjects: does it make any difference to university access?- CLS working paper 2017/11

A major part of the 2010-2015 UK government’s education reforms in England was a focus on the curriculum that pupils study from ages 14-16. Most high profile was the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) performance measure for schools, incentivising study of “subjects the Russell Group identifies as key for university study” (Gibb, 2011). However, there does not appear to be good quantitative evidence about the importance of studying such a set of subjects, per se. This paper sets out to analyse this question, considering whether otherwise similar young people who study specific sets of subjects (full set for EBacc-eligibility, two or more sciences, foreign languages, applied subjects) to age 16 have different probabilities of entering university, and specifically a high-status university.

Author: Jake Anders, Morag Henderson, Vanessa Moulton and Alice Sullivan
Date published: 28 August 2017
Working papers

A note on subject choice at age 14 and socio-economic inequality in access to university- CLS working paper 2017/10

Over the past twenty years governmental efforts to promote social mobility have included widening access to higher education as a major focus. This is in an attempt to give more individuals the opportunity to benefit from the economic returns to a university degree (Walker and Zhu, 2011). Despite this, there remains a significant level of socioeconomic inequality in access to universities (Anders, 2012a; Boliver, 2013; Chowdry et al., 2013). Much of this inequality is explained by, or emerges through, differences in prior attainment at age 16.

Author: Jake Anders, Morag Henderson, Vanessa Moulton and Alice Sullivan
Date published: 25 August 2017
Working papers

The role of schools in explaining individuals’ subject choices at age 14- CLS working paper 2017/9

The subjects that young people study from age 14 onwards may have important consequences for their future academic and labour market outcomes. These decisions are shaped by the schools in which they find themselves. Schools also face constraints of their own. This paper explores the extent to which individuals’ decisions are affected by the school they attend and to what extent this is affected by the composition of schools in terms of academic attainment, gender and socioeconomic background.

Author: Jake Anders, Morag Henderson, Vanessa Moulton, and Alice Sullivan
Date published: 23 August 2017
Working papers

Continuing education post-16: does what you study at GCSE matter?- CLS working paper 2017/8

This paper considers whether subject choice at 14-16 influences post-16 transitions, taking into account prior academic attainment and school characteristics, and if so, whether this accounts for socio-economic, gender and ethnic differences in access to post-16 education.

Author: Vanessa Moulton, Morag Henderson, Jake Anders and Alice Sullivan
Date published: 22 August 2017
Working papers

The relationship between A-level subject choice and league table score of university attended: the ‘facilitating’, the ‘less suitable’ and the counter-intuitive- CLS working paper 2017/7

Using information on all English students who entered UK universities with three A-levels in 2010, 2011 and 2012 – nearly 475,000 in total – this working paper aimed to find out how those doing certain A-levels fared in the competition for a university place.

Author: Catherine Dilnot
Date published: 13 August 2017
Working papers

Inequalities and the curriculum – young people’s views on choice and fairness through their experiences of curriculum as examination specifications at GCSE- CLS working paper 2017/6

Rhian Barrance and Jannette Elwood consider ways in which young people experience the curriculum through the lens of subject examination syllabuses (for GCSEs), their associated assessment techniques and structures and educational policies at national and school level concerning subject choice.  Drawing upon an original qualitative dataset from a mixed-methods study of students’ views and experiences of GCSE from Northern Ireland (NI) and Wales, the paper explores students’ perceptions of choice and fairness in relation to studying various subjects at GCSE and the freedoms they feel they have to make valid and relevant choices of what to study.

Keywords: education, curriculum planning, equality, subject choice, mixed-methods.

Author: Rhian Barrance and Jannette Elwood
Date published: 11 July 2017
Working papers

Inequalities and the curriculum – philosophical debates on the curriculum and social justice- CLS working paper 2017/5

Richard Pring provides a historical but critical context for examining the relation of the pursuit of greater equality in schooling to the development of curriculum. The different ways of conceptualising equality are explained in terms of:

• ‘rational curriculum planning’ with its detailed definition of ‘aims, objectives, methods and evaluation – and thereby a ‘science of teaching’;

• ‘forms of knowledge’ or ‘realms of meaning’ to enable all pupils to have a basic understanding of the physical, social and moral worlds they inhabit;

• the pursuit of enquiry through which, for all learners, understanding is enlarged;

• provision of common curriculum experience as a basis for citizenship;

• taking diversity seriously.

Keywords: education, curriculum planning, equality.

Author: Richard Pring
Date published: 4 July 2017
Working papers

Working at a different level? Curriculum differentiation in Irish lower secondary education- CLS working paper 2017/4

Emer Smyth draws on a mixed methods longitudinal study of students in twelve case-study schools to trace the school and student factors influencing take-up of higher level subjects within lower secondary Irish education.

The paper draws on data from the Post-Primary Longitudinal Study (PPLS) conducted over the period 2002 to 2008. The initial stage of the PPLS involved a postal survey of all (over 700) secondary school principals, with a response rate of 78 per cent.  The survey data were used to identify case-study schools for a more in-depth analysis of young people’s experiences in the early years of secondary education.

Keywords: mixed-mode, education, Irish Republic, higher-level subject choice.

Author: Emer Smyth
Date published: 15 June 2017
Working papers

Inequalities in school leavers’ labour market outcomes- CLS working paper 2017/3

Cristina Iannelli and Adriana Duta explore inequalities in young people’s labour market outcomes, examining differences in the employment chances of young people who left education early, either at the end of compulsory schooling or at the end of secondary school. Using data from the Scottish Longitudinal Study, the authors found little gender differences but strong parental background differences in school leavers’ employment status and type of occupation entered. Overall ‘curriculum’ appeared to be more important in predicting labour market outcomes among upper-secondary leavers while grades were more important in predicting the same outcomes among lower-secondary leavers. Only a few subjects were associated with a reduction in the chances of being unemployed/inactive.

Keywords:  Scottish Longitudinal Study, SLS, education, early-leavers, emplpoyment.

Author: Cristina Iannelli and Adriana Duta
Date published: 9 June 2017
Working papers

A measurement evaluation of a six item measure of quality of life (CASP6)- CLS working paper 2017/2

Dick Wiggins, Matt Brown and George Ploubidis evaluate the performance of a reduced six-item self-report (CASP6) of a broader 12-item version of a quality of life measure (CASP-12, v2). The analytical assessment focusses on examining the impact of the mode of data collection on the measurement properties of CASP6 in the context of an evaluation of the ‘sequential mixed-mode’ design adopted for the NCDS Age 55 Survey, where cohort members were first invited to complete the survey online, then by telephone if they had not completed the online survey after 5 weeks. A general-specific measurement model including two first order factors to capture both the unidimensionality of the scale and a specific method factor to identify negatively worded items across modes revealed a good fit. Similar assessments for either online or telephone alone and mixed mode with a telephone option revealed confirmatory results for the use of CASP6 as a standalone measure of quality of life.

Keywords:  NCDS, 1958 cohort, well-being, CASP.

Author: Dick Wiggins, Matt Brown and George Ploubidis
Date published: 8 June 2017
Working papers

Grandparent investment and young children’s cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes in the UK- CLS working paper 2017/1

Antti Tanskanen and Mirkka Danielsbacka investigate the relationship between grandparental investment and child outcomes using data from the first 3 waves of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, including children between the ages of 9 months and 5 years (n = 25,446 person-observations from 14,065 unique individuals). Grandparental investment was measured by parent-grandparent contact frequency and grandparental financial support. Child cognitive development was measured using the British Ability Scale and emotional and behavioral problems measured using the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire. The results showed grandparental investment is associated with increased cognitive assessment and decreased problems among children. However, these associations occurred because of between-person effects and did not hold for within-person analyses that compare the same participants over time. So the results did not provide evidence for a causal association between grandparental investment and child outcomes.

Keywords:  Child well-being, fixed-effects regression, grandchildren, grandparents, Millennium Cohort Study.

Author: Antti O Tanskanen and Mirkka Danielsbacka
Date published: 9 May 2017
Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Social Research Institute

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL