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Life Course as a Policy Lens: Challenges and Opportunities


  • Susan McDaniel
  • Paul Bernard


This set of research studies on the life course as a policy lens springs from research and discussions over more than a year and a half among academic researchers and policy analysts. The six empirical studies in this special issue all rely on the life-course perspective to extend the reach of the perspective into areas with policy relevance that have not been examined previously with a life-course lens. The studies examine aboriginal health, social participation, housing instability and evictions, earnings trajectories, and late-life transitions. Key conclusions overall from the project are that (1) Canada may have an early lead in conceptual thinking on life course as a policy lens, giving us the momentum to push this advantage further; (2) the life-course perspective focuses less on individual trajectories and more on the ongoing interactions of individuals with social structures, particularly structures of inequality and life-course scripts; (3) the conceptualization of the life course as a tale of path dependency, gravity, and shocks focuses attention on social circumstances rather than on individual choices; (4) a life-course perspective for policy-makers is more realistic, more attuned to the reality experienced by social actors, and social actors accordingly recognize themselves in policies; and (5) the life-course perspective offers the possibility of making social actors, researchers, and policy-makers work more in tandem.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan McDaniel & Paul Bernard, 2011. "Life Course as a Policy Lens: Challenges and Opportunities," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 37(s1), pages 1-13, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpp:issued:v:37:y:2011:i:s1:p:1-13

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    Cited by:

    1. Zagel, Hannah, 2015. "Understanding differences in labour market attachment of single mothers in Great Britain and West Germany," Working papers of the ZeS 03/2015, University of Bremen, Centre for Social Policy Research (ZeS).
    2. Hannah Zagel, 2015. "Understanding Differences in Labour Market Attachment of Single Mothers in Great Britain and West Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 773, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

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