Stats sleuth

Stats sleuth

November 15, 2007

It’s no surprise that statistics show wealthier, better educated people tend to raise children who are healthier and more successful. But it might shock Canadians to know just how far children from less wealthy families are falling behind the national average, and how many there actually are.

“Our ability to be an innovative, productive country could be jeopardized if we leave too many kids behind,” says Noralou Roos, a population health scientist at the University of Manitoba.

Her research into how different social groups perform in high school standardized tests is uncovering compelling statistics. Previous data indicated that only 75 percent of students living in the poorest areas of Manitoba pass the grade 12 standardized tests, compared to 92 percent of students in wealthier areas. However, after tracking all the kids who should have taken the tests but didn’t (e.g., dropouts, those held back, and those who didn’t finish the tests), Roos found that only 27 percent of kids living in the poorest areas passed, compared with 77 percent of kids in the affluent suburbs.

By analyzing a complex matrix of anonymous data on the residents of Manitoba—their contact with the healthcare, education, and family services systems—Roos is able to gain an even deeper understanding of why disparities, like the ones shown in her analysis of the standardized tests, still exist in Canada.

In the years ahead, Roos plans to evaluate the impact of early childhood experiences, education, community environment, and healthcare interventions on kids.