Building strong foundations for later livelihoods by addressing child poverty: evidence from Young Lives
Improving children’s life chances is central to development in low- and middle-income countries. Half the population of sub-Saharan Africa are aged 18 or younger, and young people comprise nearly half of all people living in extreme poverty worldwide. Poverty undermines not only children’s rights to life, survival, and development, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but also the skills and capabilities that fast-changing economies need for future growth. By extension, given poverty is a key mechanism shaping later chances, eradicating it is key to improving equality of opportunity. This article presents longitudinal analysis on inequities in children’s development trajectories, drawing on data from the Young Lives cohort study. Young Lives is following the lives of 12,000 children growing up in Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam. The article’s central questions are to understand how, why, and when inequalities become established through childhood. We explore how children and young people’s trajectories diverge over time; and we provide preliminary findings on education, nutrition, and youth transitions to higher education, work, and marriage and parenthood, from the latest survey round. We find that the poorest children, those in rural areas and/or from marginalized social groups, are consistently being ‘left behind’ in terms of nutritional status, learning, and opportunities to continue in education. We conclude by considering how policy interventions at different stages of the early life-course can mitigate the development of such inequalities.