Contingent Life Courses (C-LIFE)

This project facilitates the investigation of welfare, health and employment in the Nordic countries by aiming to establish a register-based comparative dataset that is to be made available to social scientists within public health and welfare research. The project title, Contingent Life Courses, reflects that people’s lives and life chances are structured by important features of the social context, and notably, the welfare state. The database will enable rigorous analyses of how life courses are shaped by social policy, and assessments of the importance of social policy and welfare reform for health, welfare and social inequality in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

An attractive feature of the proposed database is that it will make possible comparative research on the living conditions and life courses of marginal social groups and how these groups are affected by social policy. Marginal groups, such as school drop-outs, adolescents in poor health or who live in poor or socially disadvantaged households, long-term social assistance recipients, lone mothers, cancer survivors and immigrants, are all small groups that are often difficult to reach, identify and analyse in conventional comparative survey data. Using comparative national register data will hence bring the trajectories and conditions of such marginal groups to light.

Simultaneously, the data will allow studying important population trends such as the development of health inequality, labour market exclusion, use of welfare benefits and social mobility patterns, in a comparative perspective. Nordic register data are pivotal to such an aim, as survey data may be biased or have incomplete time-series, and national register-based studies may not be sufficiently comparable. The higher prevalence and variance in social policy reforms obtained by assembling data from four different national settings constitute a much richer set of data than could have been obtained for one single country.

In sum, the project represents a promising and ground-breaking initiative that - if successful - will foster novel research and scientific excellence, and significantly improve the position of Nordic social scientists and public health researchers internationally. Furthermore, the knowledge that can be produced from the C-LIFE project will be of significant value for policy makers, and may also serve as an instrument for evaluation of new policy interventions and welfare reforms in the years to come.