Next Steps is now part of CLOSER Discovery

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Group of 5 adults hikingFollowing the latest update to CLOSER Discovery – the UK’s most detailed search engine for longitudinal studies – researchers can now, for the first time, explore the complete set of variable data from the Next Steps study. To coincide with this milestone, the study’s Acting Principal Investigator, Dr Morag Henderson, introduces us to the cohort, showcases recent key findings on the experiences of the millennial generation, and demonstrates the research potential of this unique longitudinal study.

Next Steps is the only England-wide longitudinal cohort study of the ‘millennial’ generation. It has been following the lives of a group of around 16,000 people, now in their early 30s, since their school days.  This ‘millennial’ generation are particularly interesting as they faced a number of challenges as they entered the world of work: they were aged 18 at the start of the Great Recession and faced higher than ever university fees and student loan debt. Next Steps has made an important contribution to measuring inequalities and has been used to inform policy relevant questions on topics such as bullying, part-time employment and higher education participation.

I’m going to start off this blog by sharing a little background information about Next Steps before moving on to explore recent examples of research that I believe demonstrate the potential of the study data.

Tracking the millennial generation

Previously known as the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, Next Steps conducted annual surveys of its participants from 2004 until 2010 – some early sweeps also included parent surveys. Although initially the study had a strong focus on education, information was also collected on young people’s social and home lives. This data provides some really interesting contextual variables to understand participants’ experiences throughout secondary and tertiary education.  The study was restarted in 2015 and as the participants became adults the focus was broadened to include data on income, labour market experiences, family formation, health and wealth. This more holistic approach to data collection continues as we develop the survey for the Age 32 sweep which is underway.

Researchers can download data from the Next Steps’ Age 25 Sweep – as well as data from all seven previous sweeps – from the UK Data Service. We recently deposited data from the specialist COVID-19 sweeps enabling research on how inequalities have widened during the global pandemic and national UK lockdowns – the metadata from these COVID-19 surveys are also now available to explore in CLOSER Discovery.

Key findings from Next Steps

Recently some interesting work using Next Steps by Gorman and others (2021) investigated the short- and long-term effects of bullying victimisation, including on educational achievements, income and mental ill-health at age 25. Findings suggest being bullied is associated with lower levels of educational achievement at age 16, and that both the nature and frequency of bullying is important. Longer-term impacts highlight strong effects on mental ill-health, with those who were bullied reporting higher levels of psychological distress at age 25. Being bullied was also found to be related to a higher probability of being unemployed and lower earnings. This work emphasises the importance of bullying reduction efforts as well as the need to offer more emotional support to those who experience it.

In another study looking at the influence of teenage experiences, Holford (2020) found that those who had a part-time job in their teenage years reported reduced study time and lower educational achievement in the short-term, compared to those who did not have a job. Interestingly, in the longer-term, he noted that women with a part-time job during schooling went on to earn more and enter into higher status occupational roles at age 25. This work may inform policy decisions about part-time employment, school participation and motivation as well as gender differences in  attainment.

In my own research working alongside Adamecz-Volgi and Shure (2020), we make use of Next Steps data which has been linked to the National Pupil Database (NPD). This powerful, linked admin-survey data provides information on school-level characteristics, individual-level attainment, neighborhood characteristics, and free school meal eligibility to better understand multiple sources of disadvantage. Our research found that being the first in family (i.e having parents who did not attend university and obtain a degree) is an important barrier to attending university for young people (over and above school quality, prior attainment and free school meal receipt) and is therefore a useful indicator for universities to widen participation among their student base.

Next Steps data included in CLOSER Discovery

My team and I are delighted that Next Steps is now part of CLOSER Discovery following its recent content update. We hope that this will be a new access point for researchers to gain an understanding of the potential of the study and to search through the rich, contextual variables included within it.  We believe that having the complete set of Next Steps variable data included in CLOSER Discovery will be a valuable resource for research.

Further information

Further reading


Dr Morag Henderson is Acting Principal Investigator of Next Steps based at the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies. Follow CLS on Twitter: @CLScohorts

Suggested citation:

Henderson, M. (2021). ‘Next Steps is now part of CLOSER Discovery’. CLOSER. 19 October 2021. Available at: https://www.closer.ac.uk/news-opinion/blog/next-steps-is-now-part-of-closer-discovery/