International Debate

Not exactly blogging the SPA conference…….

July 6, 2011 835

As a freshly established blogger, I had in mind to try my hand at ‘blogging a conference’ (the Social Policy Association Conference, to be precise).  I think a laptop the size of a planet may not be the best tool, however…  Still, I am here and I have made my first academic conference presentation.

I presented the preliminary results of my analysis of the NCDS.  Having temporarily abandoned the volunteering data for the cohort’s 16 year olds (see previous post) I have moved on to look at the data for 23 year olds.  My outcomes were measured at age 50: voter turnout, signing a petition, attending a public meeting and going on a protest or demonstration.  The aim is to discover whether early life experience of volunteering has any impact on political behaviour in later life.  Naturally I controlled for a clutch of things (social class, educational qualifications, gender, race, self-assessed health status, and religious practice).

What did I find?  By far the biggest effect of volunteering at age 23 is on volunteering at age 50: the odds of volunteering at age 50 were doubled for those who also volunteered at age 23, all other things being equal.  The effects on political behaviour are insignificant (in the case of voting) and smaller (in the case of signing a petition and attending a public meeting or protest).

I did make the mistake of mentioning in passing the problems with the data at age 16, which got a lot of run time in the discussion afterwards.  Pete Alcock, the Director of the TSRC, seemed to think that I was over-thinking the difficulties with the data: it makes me think that I did not explain myself particularly well.

Of course, it wasn’t all about me – I presented as part of a post-grad symposium with Naomi and Anjelica.  We got 7 other participants, which was exactly the number I had wished for!  As a first attempt, it felt pretty successful, and it reminded me how lucky I am to have PhD colleagues looking at a similar subject area.

The first day was certainly an education.  I think I’m slowly beginning to get a grip on what ‘social policy’ is as a field, I saw Roberta Blackman-Woods MP criticising the left, Jesse Norman MP criticising the right and a host of academics presenting on tax, gender, work and benefits.  Later, at dinner, I had a really useful conversation about qualitative research with Julia Griggs, who reminded me that I should be looking at qualitative research for explanations more than for effect sizes.  It was a good reminder for a primarily quantitative researcher: I think I struggled in some of the afternoon sessions because I was searching through the presentations for some kind of result or effect size, rather than an explanation of the detail of some known or suspected effect.

And so to day two!

This was originally posted on the writer’s own blog, Confounding Factor.

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