OECD Papers on Well-being and Inequalities

This series features working papers on the measurement agenda for well-being, inclusion, sustainability and equal opportunity as well as papers seeking to deepen the understanding of the drivers of these issues, the ways in which they interact and how they evolve. These papers are prepared by OECD staff, external experts or by outside consultants working on OECD projects.


The economic costs of childhood socio-economic disadvantage in European OECD countries

Growing up in socio-economic disadvantage has important and long-lasting effects on children’s lives. Children from disadvantaged households often fall behind in many areas of well-being and development, with effects that continue to limit their opportunities and outcomes – including their health and labour market outcomes – long after they reach adulthood.

Drawing on Europe-wide survey data from 27 countries, this paper explores how childhood socio-economic disadvantage affects later adult labour market and health outcomes, and evaluates the country-level GDP-equivalent cost of childhood disadvantage due to lost employment, lost earnings, and lost health, as well as the costs of lost government revenue and benefit spending. Results point to large costs for societies from childhood socio-economic disadvantage, totalling on average the equivalent of 3.4% of GDP annually.


Keywords: inequality, education, families, children, health
JEL: I32: Health, Education, and Welfare / Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty / Measurement and Analysis of Poverty; I31: Health, Education, and Welfare / Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty / General Welfare; Well-Being; J13: Labor and Demographic Economics / Demographic Economics / Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
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