Shaping, testing and demonstrating the value of the Understanding Childhood dataset: Roma, Gypsy and Traveller children case study

Lead Research Organisation: London School of Economics & Pol Sci
Department Name: Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclus


The project aims to shape, test and demonstrate the value of the newly linked Understanding Childhood dataset in addressing data gaps and building up new quantitative evidence, focussing on Roma, Gypsy and Traveller children and young people children as a case study.

The Understanding Childhood dataset links data from the 2011 Census to administrative data on educational records (by matching 2011 Census records to the All Education Data for England AEDE dataset). This new data linkage provides a unique opportunity to build up in-depth quantitative evidence on the relationship between childhood experiences and circumstances (through depth analysis of 2011 Census data) and the educational achievements and trajectories of the same children and young people (through further analysis of AEDE data). Data from the 2011 Census includes rich information on childhood circumstances and experiences (including data on family background and household demographic and socioeconomic characteristics such as ethnicity, country of birth, disability, health, occupational group, housing conditions and parental education). The AEDE includes the educational records of children and young people in state funded education including in schools, further education and higher education. The proposed project will explore the potential for using this new and exciting linked dataset to build up a much needed evidence base on the relationship between RGT childhood circumstances and experiences and their educational participation and progression (including within 16-18 and post-18 education).

A dedicated exploratory project of this type is required because of the additional conceptual and methodological challenges that need to be addressed in order to tailor and use the Understanding Childhood linked dataset for the analysis of the outcomes and circumstances of RGT young people. Conceptually, it will be necessary to analyse childhood circumstances in a way that captures and reflects RGT disadvantage and vulnerability relative to other children, as well as patterns of differentiation within the RGT community (including, for example, the patterns of differentiation associated with settled versus mobile status highlighted in Burchardt et al 2018). Methodologically, additional challenges include the relatively low RGT population fraction, the known underreporting of RGT ethnicity within both the 2011 Census and administrative education records, the known low participation rates of RGT children and young people in education, in schools and especially in further and higher education (Mulkahy et al 2017, Cabinet Office 2018). These conceptual and methodological challenges (as well as their potential solutions) have been discussed in advance with ONS, and resources to work closely with ONS to address them have been built into the project design.

The project builds on the CCO policy agenda of addressing data gaps and tackling invisibility by using new and innovative data linkages to build up an evidence base on vulnerable groups of children (CCO 2019). Lack of robust data on RGT outcomes and circumstances, as well as the causes and consequences of these data gaps, are discussed in Burchardt et al, 2018 and a recent Parliamentary Committee Report (Women and Equalities Committee 2019). The project is being proposed as part of the 'Data for Children' strategic partnership formed by ADR UK, ONS and the Office of the Children's Commissioner (CCO), and is supported by and feeds into the policy agendas of MHCLG (including the national strategy to tackle RGT inequalities, MHCLG 2018) and the Cabinet Office Race Disparities Unit (RDU).

The project builds on earlier work by the CASE team to address the problem of "data exclusion" and to tackle invisibility in social statistics by building up new quantitative evidence on four groups of children that were previously missing from, or "invisible within", data monitoring exercises (Vizard et al 2018).

Planned Impact

Lack of robust data limits knowledge and understanding of the RGT group and is a barrier to effective policy interventions and ultimately to social change and equality. The proposed research will promote the public good by helping to build up quantitative evidence on the RGT group and providing an evidence base for policy-making. Amongst other early uses, the findings will directly feed into the CCO Vulnerability Database and reporting to Parliament, and will potentially be useful for MHCLG in building up its evidence base for the national strategy for tackling RGT inequalities, and for the RDU in addressing the lack for RGT data highlighted on its website.


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