But the relationship between school-dropout and low work participation may also be due to selection. People who drop out are often different from those who do not and those who have problems on the labour market, may, due to the same reasons be more likely to drop out. Both mechanisms (causation and selection) can contribute to the relationship between dropout and work participation, but the relative importance of the two mechanisms are uncertain.

Several factors may have an impact on these relationships, including individual factors, such as general ability, motivation and health, family background and childhood conditions, and regional and local social factors related to education and employment. There are complex causal relationships between childhood conditions and educational trajectories, and the consequences of these on work participation, social position, work environment, and early withdrawal from the labour market. Our main goal is to study and try to disentangle these complex relationships in a life-course perspective.

The project is a continuation of a large cohort study that was established in 2002. The study is based on a cohort of all live-born individuals in Norway from 1967 through1976, a total of 626 928 individuals. Data have been collected from birth onwards in a number of national registers, such as the Medical Birth Registry of Norway, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration’s registers on pensions, income and sickness benefits, the Norwegian Armed Forces Personnel Data Base, the Cause of Death Registry and several of Statistics Norway’s registers. For sub-cohorts of this population, data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) and the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT 3) have also been included.

The cohort study has previously received funding from the Research Council of Norway (RCN) for two sub-projects: Social inequalities in health: childhood health and subsequent work participation and Inequalities in participation and work-related health: a life course perspective.

Through this project we want to understand the causes of dropout from high school, both risk and protective factors, on the individual, family and community levels. We also want to understand the consequences of dropping out of school, on work participation (into work), work environment and social position (working) and falling out of working life (out of work).

The project will contribute to increased knowledge about mechanisms and causal chains leading to drop-out and completion of high school, as well as later work participation. Intervention areas and actions can be identified such that interventions can be implemented where they have the greatest effect, thereby reducing the dropout from school, increasing work participation and prevent early withdrawal from work.