We are the UK’s main funder of social science data infrastructure. These case studies provide some examples of the outstanding data research that we have funded.

Data crucial to helping employees save £7.1 billion through automatic enrolment in workplace pensions

  • The Department for Work and Pensions has implemented automatic enrolment into workplace pensions by using a dynamic micro-simulation model known as PenSim2. By using large-scale Understanding Society datasets containing representative samples of individuals and households, samples are ‘grown’ through time by simulating the relevant life events for each individual and each family. 
  • By 2020, over 10 million people are expected to be newly saving or saving more as a result of automatic enrolment. Since being initiated in 2012, more than 6.87 million workers have been automatically enrolled by over 290,000 employers.
  • Data collected up to April 2015 suggests that the number of eligible employees participating in a workplace pension increased to 15.1 million (75%), up from 10.7 million (55%) in 2012. The annual total amount saved by eligible employees across both sectors stands at £81.8 billion in 2015, which is an increase of £1.4 billion from 2014, and up £7.1 billion since 2012. 

Breast really is best

  • Research from the Millennium Cohort Study has found that exclusively breastfed babies are 14 times less likely to die in their early months than those that haven't been breastfed at all. The findings also revealed that breastfeeding drastically reduces deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea.
  • This research has contributed to best practice and guidance on the benefits of breastfeeding, including being used as evidence for the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative Standards (2013), a worldwide programme of the World Health Organization and UNICEF which has been implemented in 134 countries.
  • The research has been widely cited by other health organisations, such as the National Childbirth Trust in breastfeeding information packs for UK children’s centres, and by the British Dietetic Association in its 2013 policy statement on ‘Complementary Feeding: Introduction of solid food to an Infant’s Diet’. 

Shaping policy to tackle the impacts of worklessness on children

  • Research using data from Understanding Society and the Millennium Cohort Study has shaped the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) plans to tackle the impacts of worklessness, supporting 1.8 million children.
  • Findings from the research revealed that having a parent out of work has a detrimental effect on the whole family, with 75% of children in workless families failing to reach the expected level at GCSE, compared to 52% in lower-income working families. 
  • Approximately £47.5 billion of the government welfare budget is spent on family benefits, income support, tax credits and the unemployed (ONS figures, 2016). DWP is now launching a major policy initiative aimed at supporting parents/carers and families who experience worklessness and economic disadvantage, uniquely recognising young people’s educational attainment and mental health as key factors for future employability. 
  • As an example of longitudinal study data use, the DWP describe: “We joined data on how pupils perform in key tests and exams with the Understanding Society data – and this has shown us for the first time what a difference it makes to children’s educational attainment if they live in a workless family.” 
  • This innovative, research-led policy investment is directing support to front-line professionals aimed at improving educational and mental health outcomes for children whose parents/carers experience worklessness.