“Education policies and social inequality in wellbeing among young people” – study by EXCEPT researcher Björn Högberg presented at annual ESPAnet Conference 2016, Rotterdam


Depression and reduced general well-being is increasingly recognized as a major public health issue of the day, in particular among youth. As is seen in most aspects of poor health, there is also a social gradient in the burden of reduced wellbeing. This paper seeks to investigate the institutional causes of inequalities in wellbeing among youth by analyzing how educational policies moderate the association between social background and wellbeing.

Since educational policies are typically stable over time, the paper uses a comparative framework with harmonized data from the European Social Survey. Multilevel techniques are used to investigate cross-level interactions between social background and educational policies. Two indicators of wellbeing are analyzed: life satisfaction and depression.

It is hypothesized that more inclusive educational policies are associated with flatter social gradients in wellbeing. Four indicators of the inclusiveness of educational policies are tested: higher education costs, the degree of stratification of educational systems, enrolment rate in higher education, and availability of second chance opportunities in education. Results show that educational policies are indeed associated with the social gradient in wellbeing: inequalities as measured by parents’ education are smaller in countries with more inclusive educational policies.

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