Why focus on children?

UNICEF estimates that one billion children worldwide live in poverty. Poor children are vulnerable to exploitation, violence, discrimination and stigmatisation. Often, they do not have the resources needed to survive and thrive or to develop to their full potential. They often do poorly at school, and as they grow up they are likely to transfer poverty to their own children, perpetuating the cycle of chronic poverty. In both human and economic terms, therefore, childhood poverty is unacceptable. There is a high cost – not just economically, but also in terms of equity, individual well-being, and social and economic justice.

What makes Young Lives unique?

While there have been many cross-sectional studies and monitoring of children, no longitudinal research of this size, scope and complexity has ever been undertaken in the developing world. Young Lives is unique in many aspects and we see our strengths in our ability to challenge assumptions and contribute to current thinking in areas such as:

  • Economic growth and equity: current economic orthodoxy promotes growth in order to achieve poverty reduction. However, chronic poverty, unequal distribution of wealth and inequity persist in our study countries, despite current unprecedented levels of growth in India and Vietnam and sustained growth in Peru since the 1990s.
  • The political economy of poverty: by examining the social characteristics of our study children – gender, ethnicity, caste, religion, etc. – we can learn about the broader political economy of poverty. This enables us to see the structural forces (as opposed to the intra- or interpersonal factors) that render some groups poor.
  • Intra-household dynamics: most research on poverty focuses on households, but in tracking children within households and by specifying their individual characteristics and position in the family, we can say much about intra-household dynamics which are crucial in terms of children’s experiences and the consequences of poverty.
  • Escaping the poverty trap: by having a pro-poor, but not exclusively poor, sample we can examine the micro-processes by which families and children move in and out of poverty.
  • Transitions and life-courses: we know there are critical periods and transitions in childhood during which susceptibility to poverty may be especially grave, with lifelong and intergenerational consequences. Longitudinal research is essential for highlighting and explaining these issues.
  • Policy monitoring and analysis: by undertaking policy and budget monitoring at site level together with analysis of children’s and families’ perceptions of services, we are generating important information about access, equity and quality of basic services such as health and education.


Which topics does the survey cover?

The surveys use household and community questionnaires, as well as child questionnaires. Children are interviewed directly once they reach the age of 8. The questions cover material well-being, physical health, education and cognitive development, perceptions of wealth and general well-being, psychosocial health, time use and activities, risk and vulnerability, and social and political capital. The design of the long-term survey is based on studies of existing data relating to child poverty, and on the views of parents and children themselves collected using participatory methods during the preparatory phase of the study. For more information on the questionnaires, see the international website.

When are the different rounds of research happening?

The first field studies started in June 2002. The second round of the quantitative survey began in late 2006 and was completed early 2007. The third round was carried out in the last quarter of 2009, with the fourth round starting in 2013 and the fifth round in 2016. For more information about our research, read about our methods on our international website.

Where can I get regular news about Young Lives?

To keep up to date with Young Lives, you can check this website, our international website or click here to sign up to our regular e-newsletter which contains information about all of our recent publications and events.

How can I use Young Lives data?

We are committed to the widest possible dissemination of our research, including public archiving of our data to enable policymakers and other researchers to benefit from this unique longitudinal survey.

The anonymised data from the Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3 quantitative survey is publicly archived in the UK and is available through the UK Data Service - study number 5307 (Round 1), study number 6852 (Round 2), and study number 6853 (Round 3) available online here. We have deposited SPSS data files - with one file with all the data at the household/child level plus other files for the sub-tables in the database/questionnaire (e.g. the household roster).  The household level file contains cleaned data plus the set of key composite variables that were used in the original tabulation plans, including the wealth index.

Documentation accompanies the SPSS data files which describe how composite variables were derived.  This documentation set includes the questionnaires themselves as well as a “data dictionary” describing each variable and giving the code values where appropriate.  The description links the variable to the question on the questionnaire.  For calculated variables the description includes the method of calculation. The description of the Young Lives data base (pdf file user guide and also webpage study information and citation) is located here.

The Round 3 panel dataset will be deposited with the UK Data Service by end 2013. Round 1 and Round 2 datasets are available on CD-ROM for users on application. Public archiving and availability of Young Lives data forms part of our commitment to our DFID funders. We are very interested to learn of any secondary analysis of our data and potential forthcoming publications that may arise.

Please contact us for any further support or information that you wish to seek from the Young Lives team in the course of your review of the data.
Email: younglives@younglives.org.uk.