What Inequality Means for Children: Evidence from Young Lives


Understanding how poverty and inequalities affect children is central to understanding the impact of the MDGs and development of the post-2015 agenda.

This paper draws together research from across the Young Lives longitudinal study of child poverty to answer questions about how inequality shapes children’s development. Our conclusions are wide-ranging – spanning education, health and nutrition, and psychosocial development. Overall, the evidence is clear – that children from the poorest households are most vulnerable and quickly fall behind their peers, in terms of equality of opportunity as well as outcomes.

Tracking children over 15 years enables us to see how gender-based differences evolve over the life-course, highlighting trigger points that shape different opportunities for girls and boys. We see that while stunting is still widespread, there is also evidence of partial recovery for some children. This reinforces the evidence that investment in early childhood is essential, but shows that later interventions to support older children are also important. We also highlight the impact of diverse school systems on inequalities in terms of access, quality and outcomes, and the role that schools may play in reducing – or all too often, amplifying – differences.

Since inequalities are multidimensional, so too must be the response. Equitable growth policies, education and health services, underpinned by effective social protection, all have a role to play.


Woodhead, M.; Dornan, P.; Murray, H. What Inequality Means for Children: Evidence from Young Lives. Young Lives, Department of International Development at the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK (2013) 68 pp. ISBN 978-1-909403-05-5

What Inequality Means for Children: Evidence from Young Lives

Published 1 January 2013