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Open Access Research article

Adolescent outcomes and opportunities in a Canadian province: looking at siblings and neighbors

Leslie L Roos1*, Randy Walld1 and Julia Witt2

Author Affiliations

1 Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, 408-727 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 3P5, Canada

2 Department of Economics, Faculty of Arts, University of Manitoba, 554 Fletcher Argue Building, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2 N2, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:506  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-506

Published: 26 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Well-organized administrative data with large numbers of cases (building on linked files from several government departments) and a population registry facilitate new studies of population health and child development. Analyses of family relationships and a number of outcomes--educational achievement, health, teen pregnancy, and receipt of income assistance--are relatively easy to conduct using several birth cohorts. Looking both at means/proportions and at sibling correlations enriches our study of opportunity and well-being in late adolescence. With observational research possibly exaggerating the causal effects of risk factors, sibling comparisons involving individuals sharing both many family characteristics and many genes help deal with such criticisms.

Methods

This paper uses a rich dataset from one Canadian province (Manitoba) covering a wide range of geographical areas (cities to rural regions). Influences on opportunity and well-being are analyzed looking at both means/proportions and sibling correlations. We measure a variety of outcomes that may reflect different causal influences. A creative application of linear programming advances the use of data on residential location.

Results

Predicting educational achievement using available variables was much easier than predicting adolescent health status (R-square of .200 versus R-square of .043). Low levels of educational achievement, high levels of teenage pregnancy, and high sibling correlations outside Winnipeg and within Winnipeg’s lower income areas highlight inequalities across socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. Stratifying our analyses by different variables, such as income quintiles, reveals differences in means and correlations within outcomes and across groups. Particular events--changes in mother’s marital status and in place of residence--were associated with less favorable outcomes in late adolescence.

Conclusion

Our findings suggest a paradox: Canadian developmental outcomes through late adolescence appear quite similar to those in the United States, even though intergenerational mobility in Canada is closer to mobility in the Nordic countries than to that in the United States.

Keywords:
Child health; Sibling correlation; Life outcomes; Inequality persistence; Educational achievement; Teenage pregnancy; Health costs