From immigration to inclusion? A longitudinal study of immigration and outcomes for children

Jason Strelitz and Kathleen Kiernan, London School of Economics and Political Science

[Project number 30009]

This research intends to examine possible associations between social, demographic and economic characteristics of members of the UK's immigrant population and certain outcomes for their children. The aim is to develop understanding of what factors may be predictive of the children of immigrants experiencing outcomes related to social exclusion in early and mid-adulthood. This research builds on two strands of existing research. The first analyses associations between parental characteristics and outcomes for their children, and to date has concentrated on the wider UK population. The second focuses on the experiences of the UK's minority ethnic communities in relation to social exclusion, including limited amounts of existing research focusing specifically on immigrants and utilising longitudinal studies.

Analysing the relationship between parental characteristics and possible outcomes for their children is, in its widest sense, a valuable part of understanding processes that influence human development. From the perspective of understanding and ultimately tackling social exclusion, it is a key component in helping to discern which factors must be addressed if policy is to facilitate the positive environment and opportunities necessary for children to fulfill their potential.

A growth of research in this area has been fuelled by the maturation of two major longitudinal studies: the National Child Development Study (NCDS) and the 1970 British cohort Study (BCS). However the sample sizes of these surveys preclude analysis of minority ethnic groups or specifically immigrants. Given our existing knowledge of the difficulties faced by many in immigrant and minority ethnic communities it is important to develop our understanding of those factors that might be associated with more positive or difficult trajectories for young people.

For several reasons the LS is likely to be a useful tool in developing understanding about the life course of children of immigrants. The size of the LS - with large sub-samples of people from minority ethnic backgrounds - makes analysis of this kind of issue possible in a way that other longitudinal studies do not. Moreover the inclusion of questions in the 1971 census, which relate to place of birth and date of entry to the UK, alongside the specific ethnicity data contained within the census in 1991 and 2001 allow for a more complete picture of the immigrant population than even many cross-sectional surveys offer.

Although the LS does lack certain important variables from a social exclusion perspective - such as income - data in other areas such as education, employment, housing, health and access to amenities and private transport are important indicators of aspects of inclusion or otherwise. Whilst indeed no large scale survey can allow for all aspects of the trajectories of children, the LS is the only appropriate source for analysing the quantitative picture this study is intending to examine.

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