SPARC’s longitudinal Life Chances Study began in inner Melbourne in 1990 with 167 babies and their parents. It concluded in June 2024 after 34 years.

Over 14 stages the study focused on different aspects of inequality. Looking at diverse aspects of the life course, the study has contributed important insights into the dynamic interrelationship between individual lives and social and economic policy on the life chances of the participants.

Stage 14

Stage 14  – Inequality in Australia – was the final stage of the Life Chances Study. It gave an overview of the findings from stages 1–13 alongside reflections from participants and parents on the experience of participating in the study.

Stage 13

Stage 13  explored how the experience of becoming and being a parent affected economic security and financial wellbeing. It provided insights into the influences of gender and policy contexts, including paid parental leave, childcare and the right to flexible work on parents’ decisions about work and care. We have presented on Stage 13 findings at the Australian Social Policy conference in Canberra and at the Anglicare Australia conference in Cairns.

Stage 12

Stage 12  focused on economic security and life chances as the participants approach 30.

Stage 11

Stage 11 (24 to 28-year-olds) focused on experiences of post-compulsory education and training and the labour market.

Stage 10 

Stage 10 (21-year-olds) examined varying experiences of the transition from school to work.

Stage 9 

Stage 9 (18-year-olds) examined paths from leaving school to further education, training and employment.

Stage 8½ 

Stage 8½ explored the stories of the eight young people in the study who had left school aged 14 to 16.

Sections of this report may also be downloaded separately:

  • Part 1 of Stories of early school leaving (PDF, 178 KB) includes the method, findings, discussion and references.
  • Part 2 of Stories of early school leaving (PDF file, 265 KB) presents the eight young people's stories at length.

Stage 8 

Stage 8 (16-year-olds) and Stage 7 (15-year-olds) explored engagement with school and work and future plans.

Stage 6 

Stage 6 (11 and 12-year-olds) focused on the children’s progress as they were completing primary school. For the first time, the children’s own perspectives were included.

Stage 5

Stage 5 (6-year-olds) examined how changing family circumstances affected children’s health, development and progress in school.

Stages 1–4 

Stages 1–4 of the Life Chances study examined services for mothers, babies and infants, as well as exploring the parents’ employment and the experiences of migrant parents and their children.

Overview publications and films/videos

  • Janet Taylor 2014, Life chances: stories of growing up in Australia, Federation Press, Annandale, NSW. Order from Federation Press or visit BSL library
  • Janet Taylor and Malita Allan 2013, Now we are 21: an overview of the longitudinal Life Chances Study (PDF, 506 KB)
  • Life Chances: turning 13, turning 18 (DVD, 2010) distributed by Film Projects
  • Life Chances (video, 1995) produced by Film Projects Pty Ltd