Week 1: The lottery of birth
Everyone has experienced a childhood and a family life of some kind. This is profoundly influenced by the society and culture into which you are born, and the society and culture into which others are born. While these are widely diverse, they will always reflect gender, ethnic, class and religious assumptions. And early lives will reflect the very mixed, complex and sometimes contradictory concerns of their place and time.
Start your work on this course by watching the following video.
Big picture, small picture
This free course will look, simultaneously, at the big picture of the lottery of birth and the smaller, human stories of the lottery of birth. In the first week, you’ll consider the concept of the lottery of birth, inequalities both between countries and within countries and the effects of the lottery of birth on human well-being, particularly their income, health and education (looking at the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)).
In the second week, you will use the perspective of time to question whether this is a good time to be born and you’ll look at the lottery of choice as it relates to becoming a parent, as an example.
The third week looks at being born around the world. You’ll look again at the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and at the post-2015 global inequalities agenda as seen in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). You’ll examine, in particular, the lottery of being born female in different places today.
In the fourth and final week, you’ll focus primarily on the relationship between demography (the study of the structure and dynamics of human populations) and the lottery of birth, examining how individual countries and global organisations have responded to demographic changes and demographic predictions. Inequalities across countries are still larger than inequalities within most countries, so, you’ll also consider whether, in the future, children’s futures should still depend strongly on the income and wealth of their families or that of their place of residence.
Life chances at birth, the choices people and their governments have or don’t have, and make or don’t make, and the complex challenges that the lottery of birth presents, provide the structure of each week’s learning on this course, with chances, choices and challenges being addressed each week.
An interdisciplinary issue
The complexities and breadth of the lottery of birth means it has to be treated as an interdisciplinary issue and you will be using a variety of disciplines as you study this course. These will include demography, development studies, health studies, family studies, sociology, comparative social policy, history, political science and economics.
Using these disciplines brings together different perspectives to focus on an issue, providing fresh insight and framing different questions. These methods can accelerate the ability to solve problems and provide a bridge for different ideas to feed into social and political change and perhaps inform policies that have the potential to address the lottery of birth.
Dr Pam Foley is the author of this course. She is a Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care (Children and Families) at The Open University. Her teaching and research focuses on child and family social policy and on European models of children’s services.
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