News & Outputs

30 November, 2006

Building Capacity Through Secondary Data Analysis: Report on the UPTAP Seminar held at the LGA, 28 November 2006

Around 40 policy-makers and researchers attended the UPTAP seminar at the LGA that aimed to inform those outside the academic community of the UPTAP initiative and to disseminate information about some of the research projects being undertaken.

John Stillwell, the Coordinator of UPTAP, welcomed delegates and began the seminar with a short introduction, outlining the aims and objectives of the UPTAP initiative and providing an overview of the programme’s major themes and activities.

John Stillwell’s Presentation (ppt)

The seminar was divided into three parts focusing respectively on: ‘Policy Impacts on Fertility and Maternal Employment’; the ‘Relevance of UPTAP’; and ‘Policy Implications of Changing Deprivation, Well-being and Ethnic Participation’.

In the first session, Sarah Smith (University of Bristol) presented a paper on ‘Understanding the effect of public policy on fertility’, which demonstrated trends in fertility over time for nearly 30 birth cohorts of women from the Family Expenditure Survey (1968-2003) and the Family Resources Survey (1990-2004). She presented evidence of increasing childlessness, falling completed family size and a declining proportion of women giving birth before age 30. She also showed some initial analysis of the effects of the Working Families Tax Credit on fertility.

Sarah Smith’s Presentation (ppt)

Denise Hawkes (Institute of Education) provided an international comparative perspective in her presentation on Comparing early maternal employment in the UK and US: evidence from the first sweeps of the UK Millennium Cohort Study and the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study’. Denise reviewed the two data sources and the policy contexts in each country before examining the relationships between mothers’ return to work decisions during their child’s first year of life and key variables related to the characteristics of the child, mother, family, region and partner. She also explored the impact of return to work on child cognitive outcomes, indicating a greater likelihood of children sleeping through the night, sitting up and passing things from hand to hand when mothers return to work in the first 9 months of their child’s life.

Denise Hawkes’s Presentation (ppt)

In the second part of the seminar, Ian Diamond (Chief Executive of the ESRC) began with some words of encouragement to all those involved with UPTAP, stating that he was “ pleased to see the fruits moving forward”. Arguing that all major challenges are social science in nature, he stressed the importance of, and his sentimental attachment to, the initiative. He went on to state that all research funded by the ESRC is “world-class” and that UPTAP is no exception. Through formulating the ESRC’s strategic framework that is comprised of i) research; ii) capacity, and iii) engagement, the need for initiatives such as UPTAP became apparent. He emphasised how data rich the UK is yet how relatively under-utilised quantitative data sets are, highlighting “the need to build capacity in secondary data analysis”. Despite there being huge potential for additional datasets, Ian stressed that these data sets are only of use if we have a cadre of people to analyse them properly. Consequently, there is a constant need to develop capacity in skills and methods, and UPTAP is playing an integral part in this process. In terms of engagement, Ian stressed that collaboration was pivotal to success, particularly in promoting schemes that allow the exchange of researchers between government and academic communities. In summary, he referred to UPTAP as being central to not only every aspect of the ESRC agenda, but also of the national agenda. In his words, “every project has the potential to have an impact; the challenge is to get the message out in a user-friendly way”.

John Pullinger (Librarian for the House of Commons and Chair of the UPTAP Advisory Committee) spoke about the growth in the desire for ‘evidence-based policy’. He stated that the ESRC quantitative data is unrivalled from that in any other country, and that demand and supply sides for public research are both strong. However, he attributed the lack of improvement in policy making to two interlinked reasons: trust and capability. UPTAP can alleviate problems with the latter as researchers involved i) understand the data sets well enough to ask sensible questions, and ii) know when they get sensible answers from their analysis of the data sets. John stated that “the brilliant thing about this Programme (UPTAP) is that it fills the gap to allow demand and supply to be put together”. Describing UPTAP as unique due to the fact that it connects people together, and in so doing aids understanding in the key issues they face, he went on to say this in turn will condition how policies are made. In summary, he quoted a possible forthcoming catch phrase: that UPTAP is “connecting people to increase understanding”!

In Session 3 after lunch, Paul Norman (University of Leeds) gave a presentation on ‘The micro-geography of UK demographic change 1991-2001 Phase 2: Changing area deprivation’. Paul explained of how he has calculated ward level deprivation index scores for the UK using time and space harmonised input variables that allow comparison between 1991 and 2001. He reviewed the difficulties associated with data availability and classification as well as changing geographical boundaries. He presented some results of areas where deprivation has changed and outlined his aim of attempting to determine whether areas experiencing large changes are the result of regeneration policy, or whether places becoming more deprived have experienced increased unemployment as a result of closure of industry.

Paul Norman’s Presentation (ppt)

Dimtiris Ballas (University of Sheffield) expanded on the history, definition and potential use of his recently proclaimed ‘trendy’ topic: happiness. Through ‘Exploring geographies of happiness in Britain and the implications for public policy’, Dimitiris demonstrated how important public policy-relevant questions about people’s sense of well-being can be addressed on the basis of analysis of secondary socio-economic data, such as the British Household Panel Survey and the censuses of population. He used cartograms to illustrate spatial variations in income and poverty as proxies for happiness and unhappiness and argued that geographical simulation models provide important tools for assessing the impacts of public policies on well-being.

Dimitris Ballas’s Presentation (ppt)

The final presentation of the seminar was given by Yaojun Li (Birmingham University), who elaborated on his work with Anthony Heath on ‘Labour market trajectories of minority ethnic groups in Britain: 1972-2005’. Up until now, no research has been able to trace the trajectories of the minority ethnic groups in the last three decades. This research fills this void by using data from the General Household Survey and the Labour Force Survey over the last 34 years (1972-2005) and tracing the time series probabilities of men and women from different ethnic groups being unemployed, economically inactive, employed, in the service class, in the semi/unskilled working class or being self-employed.
Yaojun Li’s Presentation (ppt)

2 November, 2006

Eric Kaufmann’s work on the cover of ‘Prospects’ magazine

Eric Kaufmann’s work on religion and demography went into an article that made the cover of this month’s Prospect magazine.

1 November, 2006

Daniel Guinea-Martin’s work in ‘Labour Market Trends’ :Occupational differences between the sexes declined faster in the 1990s

The tendency for men and women to work in separate occupations declined during the 1990s to a larger extent than in earlier decades, according to an article in the December issue of Labour Market Trends. This fall took place across all ethnic groups. Occupational differences between ethnic groups also fell. The article, which looks at England and Wales, primarily uses data from the 1991 and 2001 Censuses to examine occupational segregation and inequality by sex and by ethnic group. The Census, with its almost universal coverage, is the only data source that can support analysis at this level of detail. The article notes that earlier researchers found a broadly stable situation in the level of occupational sex segregation in Britain during the 20th century, with only a slightly declining trend. The fall became more pronounced following changes in the labour market and the introduction of equal opportunities legislation in the 1970s. The decline was greater between 1991 and 2001 than it had been between 1981 and 1991, partly because of the increase in the number of men and women working in service-related occupations (in which larger proportions of women have traditionally been employed). The research also found that in each ethnic group, other than Bangladeshis, men tended to work in better-paid occupations than women. However, the degree of male advantage decreased for most ethnic groups between 1991 and 2001, as did the relative advantage of White people compared with ethnic minority groups. By 2001 Indian men and women and Black Caribbean and Chinese women tended to be in better-paid occupations than their White counterparts.

Reference: Blackwell, L. and Guinea-Martin, D. (2005) Occupational segregation by sex and ethnicity in England and Wales, 1991 to 2001, An analysis of trends in occupational difference and inequality, Labour Market Trends, 113(12): 501-516–discontinued-/volume-113–no–12/occupational-segregation-by-sex-and-ethnicity-in-england-and-wales–1991-to-2001.pdf