Listening to Young Lives at Work Covid-19 Phone Survey: First Call shows widening inequality

With the virtual fieldwork just completed on our second Covid-19 phone survey, we reflect on seven key findings from the first call that point to widening inequality. 

Young Lives at Work adapted to the coronavirus situation to implement a Covid-19 phone survey about the pandemic's short and medium term impacts. You can read more about Young Lives' response to the pandemic here and here. In June, we wrote about the design of the first call and what we were hoping to find out.  After virtual training in four countries, seven weeks of on-line fieldwork, almost 40,000 phone calls, data cleaning, coding, merging, and preliminary analysis, the headline reports of our first Covid-19 Phone survey were released in August and the data are available here.  In this blog we share our approach to the first call and key findings. 

We interviewed a total of 9,541 individuals in the Older and Younger Cohorts, reaching almost 91% of those who we were aiming to reach (see our attrition report here).  We discovered seven common findings, as well as key differences between the four countries, Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam (below). The crisis is impacting the poorest most severely and widening inequalities, with poorer people less able to protect themselves, get information, work from home or stay in education.


Seven Findings from the Young Lives at Work Covid-19 Phone Survey

 

1. Poverty and a lack of information has impacted people’s ability to take precautionary measures against Covid-19 infection, especially in Ethiopia.

2. The economic effects of lockdown policies have been more significant than the health impacts to date - although many households in Peru and India are likely to have been exposed to Covid-19.

3. Across all countries, except Vietnam, many young people are going hungry. Although government support is well targeted, it is not sufficient in Peru and Ethiopia.

4. Remote working has been the exception, not the rule. Job losses or suspension without pay are widespread, even in Vietnam, the least affected country.

5. Education of 19-year-olds, in all countries, has been severely disrupted while access to online learning has been highly unequal.

6. Caring responsibilities increased for 25-year-olds with the burden still tending to fall on young women most of all.

7. Levels of anxiety about the current situation are high, especially in India​.

Poverty and a lack of information impact people’s ability to take precautionary measures against Covid-19 infection

According to the WHO, the most common symptoms associated with COVID-19 are a dry cough, fever, and tiredness. Public information in each country has emphasized a list of symptoms which overlap with this but there are some differences (e.g. in Peru difficulty breathing is highlighted on the official government website). Most respondents were able to identify at least two of the symptoms, and those with internet access were most likely to be informed. 

We asked respondents about the five behaviours which are widely recommended as a means of preventing infection: social distancing, washing hands more frequently, avoiding handshakes or physical greetings, avoiding groups and wearing protective gear when outside. Only slightly more than half (56%) of the Ethiopia sample adhered to all five, rising to 69% in Vietnam, 72% in India and 84% in Peru. Those with internet access or residing in urban areas showed a higher degree of compliance with these measures, and overall, females tended to comply more than males. In Peru, social distancing is the behavior with the least adherence, especially among vulnerable households.

We also assessed the resources available in households to comply with the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendations on self-isolation, through an adapted version of the Home Environment for Protection Index (HEP) developed by Brown et al., 2020. The HEP measures the ability to receive reliable information on virus protection and the presence of available space and facilities suitable for implementing social distancing within the household.  

Young Lives Households: Home Environment for Protection


 

Information/ communication device

2 or less people per room

Household toilet

Household piped water

HEP score all indices

Ethiopia

0.58

0.40

0.59

0.32

0.47

India

0.97

0.62

0.52

0.24

0.59

Peru

0.98

0.73

0.96

0.89

0.89

Vietnam

0.99

0.78

0.87

0.38

0.76

Notes: Proportion of households. Adapted from Brown et al, 2020. Detail on the Young Lives HEP index can be found here.

Peru and Vietnam have relatively high averages for the protective index, but in Ethiopia, under a third have access to a piped water source, and the number of people sharing a room also makes it difficult to implement self-isolation when someone is believed to be infected with Covid-19. We find that young people who are the most vulnerable, are living in households with lower protection. Households in the higher HEP group (who are wealthier, on average) are also more likely to follow all behaviours, relative to those in the lower HEP group. 

A cause for concern is the number of those employing ineffective (though benign) preventative measures. A large number reported eating garlic or ginger to protect themselves against the virus, as well as drinking lemon, or adding hot pepper to food to prevent infection.

So far, the health impact of the crisis has been higher in Peru and India than in Ethiopia and Vietnam. In both Peru and India, approximately 6% believed someone in their household had been infected. In contrast, this figure was fewer than 1% in Ethiopia, and almost zero in Vietnam. Whilst our sample are not representative of the national populations, the rates do reflect the situation in each country. Of those who were believed to be infected in Peru and India, only around one-in-three were tested for the virus in both countries.

Many young people are going hungry in all countries except Vietnam: although government support is well targeted it is not sufficient in Peru and Ethiopia. 

The crisis has impacted food security in Vietnam notably less than in the other countries. One in six Young Lives households in Peru, India, and Ethiopia reported running out of food at some point since the beginning of the crisis. This percentage was even larger among households that faced food shortages (food insecurity) in our last visit in 2016 (about twice as high in India). In Vietnam, the overall proportion was much lower, at 4%.

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Source: Young Lives COVID-19 phone survey. We defined food insecure households as those reporting “sometimes do not eat enough” or “frequently do not eat enough” and food secure households those reporting “eating enough but not always what they would like” or “eat enough of what we want”.

Government assistance has reached our respondents to very different degrees. About 92% of the households in India received at least one form of support from the government during the lockdown, although in many cases the support consists of a small basket of food or face masks.  This compares to around half of those in Peru, falling to just 6% in Ethiopia. In all countries it was relatively well targeted, reaching proportionately more of those households that reported food insecurity in a previous visit. However, in Peru the proportion of the most vulnerable households that received a direct cash transfer was far from universal. This could signal either a targeting problem, a delay in payments, or both. Moreover, the size of the transfer appears insufficient (as its value corresponds to about 82% of a minimum wage per family for the entire period).  

Job losses or suspension without pay are widespread even in Vietnam, the least affected country, and remote working is the exception rather than the rule

Many of our 25-year-old respondents lost their jobs. This was particularly severe for respondents who had been informal workers with no written contract in our last visit. In Peru and India, 7 out of 10 respondents had reduced or lost their source of income due to lockdown, 6 in 10 in Vietnam, and 4 in 10 in Ethiopia.  A concentration of income losses among those in the informal sector is an indication of this group’s additional vulnerability to the economic consequences associated with the pandemic. However, it is important to state that everyone, even those who were formal workers prior to the crisis, was severely affected.

The proportion of those who lost income or employment was also relatively higher in urban areas compared to rural areas and a higher proportion of males experienced these losses in both locations. 

Remote working has been possible only for a lucky minority of 25-year-old workers living in urban areas. The highest proportion (28%) in India were able to work from home during the outbreak, falling to 20% in Vietnam, 18% in Ethiopia and 17% in Peru. The percentage is much higher within households who are better equipped for protective measures against Coronavirus (High-HEP). Presumably, this is due to the availability of better infrastructure (e.g. access to internet, computer ownership) and the nature of the work activities performed. 

Education of 19-year olds in all countries has been severely disrupted and access to online learning has been highly unequal

With schools and universities closed very early on in the outbreak in all countries, the interruption to education was striking. Inequalities in those whose studies were interrupted are clear both across countries, gender and wealth. Access to study from home was slightly higher for females than males in all countries, and wealth and parental education almost doubled the chances of being able to study at home. In Vietnam, the vast majority of our 19-year-old cohort (almost 90%) accessed remote learning, falling to 70% in Peru, and 38% in India. In contrast, only 28% in Ethiopia continued to learn remotely, this fell to 14% if their parents had no education. 

This echoes the findings of another Young Lives study that interviewed headteachers in Ethiopia and India, see here for more information

Caring responsibilities increased for 25-year olds and the burden still tends to fall on young women

Although slightly more 19 year-old women have been able to continue their studies online, wide disparities are clear when looking at caring. In all countries except Peru, more than double the number of young women, relative to young men, have had to take on extra caring responsibilities during the lockdown.  The disparity is particularly striking in India and Ethiopia.

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Source: Young Lives COVID-19 phone survey.

Levels of anxiety about the current situation are high, especially in India

How is this impacting on young people’s stress levels? We asked respondents whether the statement "I am nervous when I think about current circumstances" applies to them. We found that stress levels are worryingly high – in India more than 90% of all the young people indicated it applied or strongly applied to them. In Vietnam and Ethiopia 65% agreed with these statements. Peru had surprisingly the lowest anxiety levels, with just under 50% feeling nervous. In the second call we have asked more detailed questions about mental health based on validated scales.

What happens next? 

The data are available on open access (see here).  Due to the nature of the confidentiality agreement that Young Lives has with the families, the datasets are anonymized, and information on geographical location is limited. 

The second call fieldwork has now been completed. We will release headline findings in November. This second phone call has gone into more depth about young people’s labour market experiences, to understanding the medium-term impacts of the pandemic on their work life, their home life, and their education. More specifically, it contains information on the household socio-economic status, food security, labour, education, time use, health (including mental health) - the main themes of the YL survey that can be implemented over the phone.

This is a longer version of our blog first published in The Conversation in August, here.  Follow us on Twitter @yloxford for news on Young LIves at Work. 

 

Longitudinal Research with the children of the Millennium. Highlights and overall key messages(Amharic)

Listening to Young Lives at Work in Ethiopia: First Call

Poverty and inequality
Poverty and shocks
Country report

This brief report provides a first look into the data collected during the first of three calls in Young Lives at Work's Phone Survey in Ethiopia and presents some of the key findings.x

It incudes a snapshot of the recent situation in the country.  The findings found that the majority of the respondents were aware of the symptoms of COVID-19, but compliance with all recommended behaviours for protection was low. Income and employment losses due to the virus outbreak were relatively higher among the informal sector, in urban areas and among males. Moreover, education was entirely interrupted during the virus response and few children continue to learn remotely.

The Young Lives phone survey investigates the short/medium-term impact of COVID-19 on the health, well-being, employment and education trajectories of young people in our study. The Young Lives participants have been tracked since 2001 and are now aged 19 (Younger Cohort, YC) and 25 (Older Cohort, OC).

The second call has been piloted and the fieldwork will take place between August-October 2020.

Additional statistics and summary tables from the first phone survey can be found here.

 

 

Understanding Violence Affecting Children in Ethiopia: a Qualitative Study

Nardos Chuta
Virginia Morrow
Kirrily Pells
Poverty and inequality
Violence
Child protection
Community change
Working paper

 

This working paper describes a sub-study  by Young Lives Ethiopia on conceptualisations and understandings of violence affecting children and youth in three Ethiopian communities (one rural, two urban). Qualitative research was undertaken in May 2017, in two phases, with a total of 120 participants, using individual interviews and group discussions with children, young adults, caregivers, and professionals. 

The study found a range of terms for and definitions of violence, with differences between the rural (Oromiffa-speaking) area, where violence included harm caused by poverty, and the two urban (Amharic-speaking) sites, where violence included abuse and exploitation.  Some forms of violence were considered acceptable or unacceptable according to age and gender.  Children were said to be punished at home or at school for a range or reasons, and violence was widely understood to have lasting negative effects.  Children sought support from a range of people - mostly kin and friends, but occasionally from school clubs, headteachers, parent-teacher associations, and the police.  There were powerful barriers to reporting sexual assault and rape. 

Generally, participants reported that there has been a reduction in violence overall, though some violent practices continued, and there was a sense that gender-based violence had increased, especially harassment of older girls.  A marked intergenerational change was widely reported - especially in relation to reductions in the use of severe corporal punishment by parents - and was seen as a response to much greater awareness among caregivers of changes in the law and children's rights. 

Longitudinal Research with the children of the Millennium. Highlights and overall key messages

Poverty and inequality
Early childhood development
Education
Research Report

 

This brief, produced in partnership with UNICEF Ethiopia, draws on 15 years longitudinal research by Young Lives Ethiopia and the Country Report, highlighting the context in which this research was conducted, cross-country findings, and key implications for policy and practice. The full report is available on the Young Lives Ethiopia website. The research brief is one of the five briefs produced under the joint work of Young Lives and UNICEF.  The remaining four briefs, to be published in coming months, are on early marriage, early childhood development and education, violence and adolescence. 

Tracing the consequences of child poverty - reflections from co-author Andrew Dawes on findings from 15 years of research

After several years in the making, ‘Tracing’, as we authors have come to call the volume, is published. What a journey it has been! Tracing draws on over 800 research papers, fact sheets, country reports and other outputs generated since the inception of the Young Lives study in 2001.

When asked by Jo Boyden to assist in this venture, I asked myself how on earth do we extract and synthesise Young Lives findings gathered over 16 years, to produce a concise account of the impact of poverty on children’s lives in four countries, that is at once scientifically rigorous, of interest to researchers in diverse fields, and perhaps most importantly, provides evidence that assists policy makers in their efforts to improve children’s lives?

Much of the answer lies in the deep knowledge of the project held by authors Jo Boyden and Paul Dornan who together with the Young Lives team, knew where to drill down to construct a powerful story of what matters in children’s lives both in relation to compounding disadvantage or supporting positive growth and development. 

Both the Young Lives International Advisory Board and the ‘Tracing’ Advisory Group, or TAG as we called it, challenged us to go beyond the ‘business as usual’ child poverty story and mine for nuggets that would shift the policy and intervention discourse. 

Taking this advice, we were able to demonstrate that while particular aspects of disadvantage are essential to address (e.g. under-nutrition; poor quality schooling), it is intersecting inequalities and disadvantages that are particularly powerful in undermining human development from before infancy through adolescence and youth. These include the poorest and rural children who are also members of marginalised groups (e.g. ethnic, caste or language), with less educated parents. Policies therefore need to pay particular attention to children who face these intersecting challenges.

A further example of the impact of intersecting disadvantage is evident from Latent Growth Modelling (LGM) an approach I discuss in an article here with Colin Tredoux. In Tracing, LGM traces the consequences of disadvantage in early and middle childhood and adolescence for the development of maths and language skills (vocabulary and reading comprehension). Modelling shows how children from poorer backgrounds with less educated caregivers either don't attend a preschool or attend one that is likely poor quality. That missed opportunity is associated with weaker quantitative and language skills by age five enduring through childhood.

A much-overlooked consequence of poverty is its potential impact on the psychological well-being of primary caregivers. LGM shows how the mental state of caregivers affected by poverty is related to child growth in the early years; those more negatively affected are likely to have children with stunted growth. That in turn compromises cognitive skills in both early and middle childhood. New challenges emerge in early adolescence for children who have to work to assist poor families - they have less time for schooling and studying. So a poor start compounded by other demands in later years contributes to poor skills development by adolescence. This in turn is likely to compromise education outcomes and ultimately the chance to enter further education, training and decent work. 

Patterns such as this are evident throughout the Young Lives data and are what we refer to as Developmental Cascades, a term drawn from the work of Ann Masten and Dante Cicchetti  As LGM shows, cascades occur both within and across stages of childhood development and build upon one another so that their effects accumulate to shape developmental outcomes over time.

For example, the study measured children’s height for their age at each Round. This enabled us to discover a very important nugget; evidence of both growth recovery and faltering during middle childhood. A proportion of children whose growth was stunted in early childhood showed normal growth in middle childhood, while some who had shown normal early growth, were stunted later. Thus early growth status is not necessarily fixed, indicating the potential for remedial intervention later in development. Particularly important is evidence that recovery is associated with cognitive gains in some children. 

Another example comes from the qualitative data analysed by Gina Crivello and Ginny Morrow. The TAG encouraged us to seek examples of children who were ‘bucking the trend’ of expected negative outcomes despite their disadvantages. What was it about these children and their circumstances that made the difference, and how could this information be used to provide more enabling environments for children placed at risk by poverty? Gina and Ginny’s work, discussed here, found that it was a combination of mutually reinforcing factors such as child characteristics and enabling environments in the family and beyond which together diverted children at risk into positive pathways. They also found that to maintain this positive Development Cascade, the children needed sustained support through young adulthood. 

In sum, Tracing has synthesized evidence from across the study and combined it with life course longitudinal analyses that permit examination of the cumulative influence of sources of risk, protection and opportunity from across childhood and through adolescence. This approach has allowed us to consider the implications of these findings for child-focused policy and programmes as low- and middle-income countries strive to overcome intergenerational poverty and inequality and meet the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals. We will share Tracing’s findings with policy makers and practitioners in government and non-government settings to help inform debates on how best to secure children’s well-being, development and rights. 

Tracing the consequences of child poverty is available digitally https://bit.ly/2TUOQRY and in print https://bit.ly/2U8vjwz.  For news of Young Lives you can follow us on Twitter @yloxford, Facebook, and check our website www.younglives.org.

 

Tracing the consequences of child poverty; Evidence from the Young Lives study in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam

Submitted by remote on Wed, 03/27/2019 - 12:37

A new book from Young Lives draws on over 15 years of research to explore how poverty shapes children’s wellbeing and development and how data can inform social policy and practice approaches to improving outcomes for poorer children.

Using life course analysis from the Young Lives study of 12,000 children growing up in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam over the past 15 years, the book draws on evidence on two cohorts of children, from 1 to 15 and from 8 to 22.

The Young Lives animation: Tracing the consequences of child poverty

We are delighted to share the Young Lives animation 'Tracing the consequences of child poverty'. The animation offers an overview of our longitudinal study of child poverty across four countries, over 15 years, with 12,000 children. 

It captures some of the key study findings and implications for policy and programming to explore how best to secure and sustain healthy development for children growing up in poverty around the world. Please find the animation below and on our YouTube channel, and engage in the virtual conversation on Twitter @yloxford with #YLPoverty and #tracingtheconsequences 

Young Lives child poverty conference captures 'the story of the first part of this century'

Submitted by remote on Mon, 08/13/2018 - 09:54

On Wednesday 27th June, more than 100 researchers, policymakers and practitioners joined the Young Lives team at the 'Young Lives, child poverty and lessons for the SDGs' conference held at the British Academy in London to mark the first 15 years of the study, to share and debate findings so far, and to help outline what governments and donors can do to address the disadvantages children face. 

Young Lives Ethiopia: Lessons from longitudinal research with the children of the Millennium

Poverty and inequality
Summative Output

The Young Lives Ethiopia Country Report presents results from a fifteen-year longitudinal study, which followed two cohorts of children in 20 sites selected from the five main regions of Ethiopia, from 2002 to 2016, as a component of a larger multi-country project. The research followed one cohort as they grew from infancy to adolescence (aged one to 15), and the second as they grew from early childhood to early adulthood (aged 8 to 22). The study relates conditions early in the lives of children to later outcomes, and so improves understanding of the effects of poverty on children’s life trajectories. It also provides information on the effects of policies and changes on the lives of children, and offers evidence-based guidance for policies to improve children’s chances of developing into integrated and productive members of society.

The report first outlines the Young Lives project and the context in which the Ethiopian study took place, including the engagement between researchers and the Ethiopian government’s efforts to improve the lives of its children. It presents key findings and policy implications on four main areas of study: poverty dynamics; child health and nutrition; education and learning; and wellbeing and child protection. The report concludes with implications of the findings for future policy,and the benefits of continuing the research.

A summary of this report is available here. For related materials, follow us on Twitter @yloxford.