ACSPRI Conferences, ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference 2010

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A Modelling Tool to Improve the Policy Response on Issues Concerning Children and Young People

Roy Lay-Yee, Janet Pearson, Oliver Mannion, Wendy Wrapson

Building: Holme Building
Room: MacCallum Room
Date: 2010-12-03 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2010-11-23


Evidence shows that deficits experienced early in life have a cumulative effect that is long felt and much social policy is aimed at preventing or reversing such deficits. Successive New Zealand governments have invested heavily in policies targeting the early years: Working for Families, Early Childhood Education, statutory parental leave, and higher subsidies to family doctors, among others. However questions remain as to whether or not these have been the right investments. In addition, changes in policy often have consequences beyond the anticipated outcome. Computer simulation models allow an assessment to be made of the impact of a particular variable before a strategy is introduced, enabling those policies that may have unexpected and unwelcome outcomes to be discarded or amended beforehand. We are developing a decision-making tool to assist policymakers to make sound decisions affecting children and young people. One of the major advantages of the modelling tool is that users will be able to simulate their own changes in government policy via a user-friendly interface, without needing the technical skills often required to use similar microsimulation tools.

The aims of the project are being achieved by building a model with data derived from existing longitudinal studies to quantify for policy purposes the underlying drivers and determinants of progress in early childhood. These data are used to estimate coefficients for significant predictors. The derived transition equations from these analytical models are then inserted into the simulation model to create dynamic forecasts of outcomes for children and young people.

Two years into the “Modelling the Early Life Course” project, we have developed the prototype of the modelling tool, comprising a dynamic simulation of early childhood (0–5 years) and the impact of family factors on health outcomes. Data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study were used for the prototype. The focus of the next three years will be to extend the model from the 0–5 year age group to 0–10 years, to broaden its focus to educational, behavioural and developmental outcomes (in addition to health), and to integrate additional longitudinal data to better represent contemporary New Zealand society.