Childhood, School and Inequality in the Nordic Countries (Unequal Childhood)

Childhood, School and Inequality in the Nordic Countries (Unequal Childhood)

Toys in a sandpit. Photo.

About the project

An important objective of the research is to study economic, political and institutional framework conditions for children and upbringing. 

The project Childhood, School and Inequality in the Nordic Countries begins in the spring of 2019, and is an overall research umbrella. It includes a subproject in collaboration with the municipality of Trondheim and a Nordic subproject in cooperation with the University of Tampere.

Currently, Trondheim municipality lacks information about social inequality in children's and adolescents' upbringing and living conditions after the millennium. In the Trondheim part of the project, the ambition is to strengthen cooperation between NTNU and Trondheim municipality in an area where the knowledge base is deficient compared to other Norwegian metropolitan areas. Here we are both concerned with identifying social and institutional mechanisms that help maintain social divisions in school as an organization, as well as in developing new theoretical frameworks for understanding and explaining social inequality and social exclusion.

The Trondheim project will begin during the spring of 2019, and is initially planned to go over three years.

In Nordic and international part of the project Trondheim is just one among several cases to be compared. The research focus are on childrens´ well-being and integration in a school- and welfare perspective. This is a study including information about schools in socioeconomically privileged and less privileged areas in each town as well as how these schools are integrated with local welfare and health agencies. In addition to an actor focus this also includes an interest in the governance of childhood and the status of children and youth in policy and public planning. In addition to the Trondheim group the comparative project include a collaboration with FAFO (Oslo), Tampere University and Tampere Town, Linköping University - Campus Norrköping and Norrköping municipality. 

Both projects are part of the research group Welfare and Inequality at the Department of Sociology and Political Science, in partnership with the research group Education Policy, Diversity and Inequality at the Department of Teacher Education at NTNU.

The research design in the Trondheim project and the Nordic project is based on a mixed method approach that combines questionnaires, interviews, document analyses, analysis of living conditions and socio-demographic data with organizational analyses. It also adds analyses based on register data in Norway.

The key topics are:

  • Identification and analysis of children's lifeworld, well-being and integration. The project will carry out a systematic survey and analysis of factors that help promote or counteract children's quality of life and integration. Here we are concerned with children's own experiences of their lifeworld through security, trust, well-being and social affiliation.
  • Schools' handling of social inequality and social exclusion. The project explores the organization of the schools based on socio-demographics and living conditions as well as cultural aspects linked to territorial stigmatization. The organization of the collaboration between school and municipality. 
  • How the school's conditions and priorities have been changed since 2000. New educational programs and development projects have been introduced inlight of policy objectives. We therefore want to study how the municipality and school maintain the welfare of the students through these processes of change.
  • Children and young people with health limitations encounter and experiences with the health services in a social inclusion and participation perspective. Based on existing health inequalities research, we know there exists a strong, systematic relationship between educational level and health. An important aim of the project is therefore to produce in depth knowledge on how the health services are organised, and in what ways they contribute to reduce or strengthen social participation. Another central aim is to study how the organisation and integration of municipal services corresponds to children and young peoples' various needs.
  • Children and young people's living conditions in Trondheim after the millennium. An important aim is to establish a new database of existing data and register data on the living conditions of children and young people in Trondheim.



Eli Smeplass (2018) : «Konstruksjonen av den problematiske lærerutdanningen. Lærerutdanningen i et institusjonelt og politisk landskap». Doctoral thesis. Main supervisor: Professor Håkon Leiulfsrud. Co supervisor Professor Raimund Hasse, University of Lucerne.

Anna Rapp (2018) «Organisering av social ojämlikhet i skolan. En studie av barnskolors institutionella utformning och praktik i två nordiska kommuner.» Doktorgral thesis. Main supervisor: Professor Håkon Leiulfsrud. 

External partners

External partners

  • Joakim Caspersen, Senior Researcher, NTNU Samfunnsforskning
  • David Harding, Professor of Sociology, University of California-Berkeley
  • Raimund Hasse, Professor of Sociology, University of Lucerne
  • Christian Imdorf, Professor of Sociology, University of Leibniz, Hannover
  • Teo Keipi, Postdoctoral Researcher, Aalto universitetet i Helsingfors
  • Samuel Lucas, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley 
  • Dimitris Michailakis, Professor, Department of Social and Welfare Studies. University of Linköping 
  • Atte Oksanen, Professor of Social Psychology and Finnish Project Leader, University of Tampere
  • Jon Rogstad, Research Director FAFO
  • Sigrunn Tvedten, Assistant Professor, University of South-Eastern Norway