Contact Goran Holmqvist via Email
Former Deputy Director (Former title)
Göran Holmqvist has served as Associate Director of the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti since 2012. Prior to joining UNICEF he has held various leadership positions in the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), including as its interim Director General and as Director for several of its regional departments. Mr. Holmqvist is a national of Sweden. He has worked in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Zimbabwe. His academic background is as a development economist, with publications in areas related to income inequality, social protection and aid effectiveness in both Latin American and African contexts. He is fluent in Swedish, English and Spanish; and proficient in French and Italian. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Child-related Concerns and Migration Decisions: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll
Current times are characterized by unprecedented migration levels: millions of people are on the move worldwide. Thus, understanding why people decide to migrate is a major goal of policymakers and international organizations, and migration has become a prominent issue on the global research agenda. Traditional migration drivers can be divided into reasons to leave (‘push’ factors) and reasons to migrate (‘pull’ factors), and include income deprivation, dissatisfaction with public services and institutions in the home country, conflict and war, climate change, and social networks abroad. In this paper, we focus our attention on children’s well-being as a potential migration driver. We investigate it by using the Gallup World Poll, a repeated cross-section dataset of a survey conducted in more than 150 countries from 2006 to 2016. We estimate the association between planned and intended migration and children’s perceived well-being using logit models with standardized coefficients, robust standard errors, and year and country fixed effects. Estimates reveal a positive and statistically significant association between child-related concerns, migration intent and plans. In particular, the probability of individuals having migration intent and plans increases where they report lower levels of satisfaction with child-related issues, as measured by the Youth Development Index, an index driven by indicators of respect for children and satisfaction with the education system. Moreover, children’s well-being affects more individuals living in households with children than those without. Finally, migration is a child- and youth-related phenomenon: young individuals would like to migrate, and plan to do so, more than older individuals.
Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Children across the Globe
Target 2.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for an end to hunger, in all its forms, by 2030. Measuring food security among children under age 5, who represent a quarter of the world’s population, remains a challenge that is largely unfeasible for current global monitoring systems. The SDG framework has agreed to use the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) to measure moderate and severe food insecurity. The FIES is an experience-based metric that reports food-related behaviours on the inability to access food due to resource constraints. We present the first global estimates of the share and number of children below age 15, who live with a respondent who is food insecure.
Why Income Inequalities Matter for Young People’s Health: A look at the evidence
Although child and adolescent inequalities are still less understood than those of adults, we have made progress in understanding the pathways that lead to negative outcomes and the limitations of some ‘adult-specific’ indicators as proxies of young people’s health and well-being. This paper aims to summarise relevant knowledge on the socio-economic causes of health inequalities in children.
Exploring the Late Impact of the Financial Crisis using Gallup World Poll Data
This paper explores the late impact of the Great Recession by using Gallup World Poll data. This data may be exploited to obtain an indication of what the trends have been up to 2013 for a number of well-being-related indicators in different dimensions. An additional advantage with the World Poll is the more complete country coverage which goes beyond that provided by EU-only databases.
Trends in Child Well-being in EU Countries during the Great Recession: A cross-country comparative perspective
The goal of this paper is to monitor the impact of the Great Recession on child well-being in countries of the European Union. Data from the EU-28 plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey is used to document the change in children’s well-being from 2007/8-2012/3. The authors classify countries into ‘least’, ’moderately’ and ‘most’ exposed to the global recession and document trends in well-being outcomes for each of the three groups.
Children and migration decisions: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll
Migration is a major human phenomenon that has accompanied civilization since the origins of mankind. People have been moving across regions, countries and continents in search of better opportunities for millennia; however, in recent years migration has become an extremely urgent and complex issue – even a hot topic in the political arena.Although migration has been investigated in countless studies, some critical unanswered questions regarding children remain: for example, do children’s living standards in the country of origin play a major role in the decision to migrate? To what extent do limited educational opportunities and unsafe environments for children affect migration decisions? These elements may mostly influence parental decisions, but they might also be influential factors for people without children looking for a better life. In fact, child rights and the quality of educational systems are important indicators of social and cultural development in a country.A refugee family from Afghanistan look at clothes in the UNICEF children's corner in Divljana refugee camp in Serbia.Migration is a child and youth related issue, with aspirations to migrate highest between ages 17 and 22 and parental perceptions about child well-being a significant push factorA forthcoming Working Paper from UNICEF Innocenti analyses these issues by exploring data from the Gallup World Poll (GWP). This unique dataset can provide valid global insights into migration and migrants’ experiences, with focus on the condition of children in their home country and on the presence of youth within the households. It is a repeated cross-sectional dataset, representing 98% of the world’s adult population (over 15 years old) since 2006.Gallup World Poll data allows researchers to monitor migration trends, to describe and identify common features characterizing potential migrants (age, gender, education, income level and marital status). It can identify where potential migrants may currently be and where they want to go. Researchers even investigated whether child-related factors influence migration intentions and plans. The Youth Development Index, available as a GWP dataset, gathered child-related concerns through three survey questions able to capture respondents’ sensitiveness in this regard (specifically, they have been asked their opinion about: children treated with respect; children have an opportunity to learn and grow; their levels of satisfaction with education services).This work represents the first attempt to quantify the extent to which child-related concerns influence migration decisions. Ideally, it will pave the way for attracting the attention of both academics and policymakers to this issue. Some striking findings arising from our analysis are:Migration is a child- and youth-related phenomenon, as both migration intent and migration plans peak at young age (approximately at age 17 and 22 respectively, in global terms);Perceived child well-being significantly affects both migration intent and plans, even after having considered a full range of other influential factors affecting migration decisions;Individuals belonging to households with children aged 15 or below are more affected by child-related variables in their migration intent or plan, than those living in children-free household;The presence of children in the household positively affects migration intent, and negatively affects migration plans. In other words, the presence of children encourages people to search for a better life somewhere else. On the other hand, it represents an obstacle to the realization of migration intent, as children may represent additional costs in the migration process. Globally, the effect sizes of children-related concerns are comparable to the effect sizes of factors related to economics, governance and lack of security, which are usually put forward as likely drivers of migration. Perceived child well-being, in particular, has been revealed to affect migration intent more than factors like satisfaction with public services or food deprivation. Also, when we look at migration plans, factors such as satisfaction with public services, economic conditions and confidence in key institutions play a secondary role with respect to child-related concerns.A more in-depth analysis reveals different results based on regional differences in income levels: households in upper-middle-income countries devote greater importance to children’s well-being than households from other income regions (in both migration intent and plans). In addition, child-related issues in high-income countries lose their importance, remaining statistically significant, in favor of other factors, traditionally considered as drivers of migration and affecting migration intent.In addition to this, researchers showed that young, male and single people, and those with secondary education or higher reveal the strongest intention to migrate and plan to do it.This new evidence supports the hypothesis that child-related concerns are potential drivers of migration. Ideally, this is a major starting point for further analysis, which could emphasize the role of youth and the presence of children in decisions to migrate and, specifically, investigate the role of children’s well-being in the country of origin as a major push factor.Sara Burrone is a research fellow at the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche. Bina D'Costa is research and evaluation specialist (migration) with UNICEF Innocenti. Göran Holmqvist is Director, Asia, Middle East and Humanitarian Assistance with Swedish International Development Assistance (SIDA). Explore the UNICEF Innocenti research catalogue for new publications. Follow UNICEF Innocenti on Twitter and sign up for e-newsletters on any page of the UNICEF Innocenti website.
Famines and stunting: Are adolescents the hardest hit?
The UN recently raised a red flag that we are heading for one of the worst humanitarian crises since 1945. 20 million people in four countries – South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria – face the risk of famine. The world could witness horrors again. Adding to our concern is the prediction that climate change will bring even more weather variability to these regions, interacting with many complex, man-made conflicts and risks. Children are among the most vulnerable: some will not survive and others will suffer the consequences of undernourishment, including stunting. The severe consequences of neglecting the needs of a child during their first thousand days, is well evidenced. The message about the importance of the first thousand days has echoed widely – perhaps to the point where concerns may be raised about the policy implications being overstretched. There is an anthropometric impact of famine on those exposed as infants, but surprisingly even more so on those exposed as adolescents.The world has witnessed famines before. Publicly available household survey data sets, such as UNICEF/MICS and DHS, enable us to shed additional light on the long-term consequences. An article in the American Economic Review (R. Akresh et.al. 2012) presents evidence of the long-term impact of exposure to the Biafra famine (Nigeria 1968-70). The outcome measure is height among adult women, with height loss well known to be a strong predictor of a range of adverse impacts. The study takes into account the regions and ethnicities most exposed to the famine, as well as the age at exposure and its duration. As expected, those women who were exposed to the famine as infants, are shorter, with the impact estimated to be minus 0.75 cm. Far less expected is that the height impact on those exposed as adolescents – the second period of life marked by a strong physical growth surge – is much greater, an astonishing minus 4.5 cm! The finding should raise some eyebrows, as stunting is almost exclusively discussed as a phenomenon linked to undernourishment among infants; much more rarely as a phenomenon developed in adolescence. Source: DHS, all available Cambodia data sets (rounds 2000/2005/2010/2014). Lines based on five-year rolling averages by age at exposure, using 1977 for age 0. Minuses if unborn (-5=born 5 years after 1977). All women above 20 at time of survey are included.The graph above conveys a highly simplified visual replication of the Biafra findings, related to another tragic famine: Cambodia 1975-79. In terms of excess mortality its estimated impact is 1.5-2.0 million. In an overview of 20th century famines (S. Devereux 2000) the Cambodia famine stands out in terms of its magnitude and the share of the population that was affected. In a spirit of simplicity, the above graph plots the average height of women (blue line) and the prevalence of adult female stunting (<145 cm, red line) against age in 1977. That year is chosen for being the mid-year of the 1975-79 episode. Data on height and year of birth has been brought together from all available Cambodia DHS surveys. All estimates are national averages; no adjustments have been made of more or less exposed regions or population groups, nor for the length of the exposure to the famine (both adjustments would probably further underscore the message conveyed by this graph). The graph echoes the message from the cited Biafra study: There is, as expected, an anthropometric impact of famine on those exposed as infants, but surprisingly even more so on those exposed as adolescents. These findings lend themselves to a number of interpretations. A first could be that excess mortality primarily affects infants, which implies that those most severely affected by famine are no longer with us in the data-sets we use. Additional research could probably indicate the extent to which this is a factor at play here. However, notwithstanding its importance, this does not diminish concerns over adolescent vulnerability. A second interpretation could be related to the much debated issue of catch-up growth. A recent study by Young Lives – based on longitudinal data from Peru, India, Ethiopia and Vietnam – does lend further support to earlier results, which indicate catch-up growth among adolescents who were stunted as infants. So one interpretation may be that we see less height impact on those exposed as infants in the graph above, or in the Biafra study, because catch-up growth has taken place. Furthermore, it may be that catch-up growth does not repair other detrimental impacts of infant stunting, and that the curve somehow masks that. The fast brain development of infants is often cited as a specific cause of concern. However, recent brain science research tends to emphasize the crucial brain growth that also occurs during adolescence. The research on the long-term consequences of stunting depending on at which age it occurs, have important contributions to make here. In any case, the notion of catch-up growth underscores one unique aspect of adolescents’ vulnerability to famines: Adolescents will not be given a second opportunity to grow. A third interpretation of the graph above, not necessarily incompatible with the first two, could be that adolescents are indeed disproportionately neglected during famines. Concerns over such biases are not new (P. Salama 1998). Infants require less food and are possibly given more attention by immediate caregivers, as well as by emergency relief operations, while adolescents tend to be treated as adults, despite their nutrition-related vulnerability. If this is the case, then policies and practices need rethinking. At UNICEF Innocenti, we were considering setting up our own research project to add more evidence and nuance to the issue discussed here, including replicating it with more precision for other outcome variables and to other incidents of famine. However, given the urgency of the matter, we have chosen to share these incipient findings and puzzles, in a blog. We invite the research community to help us sort out this issue, urgently. Please share your findings and research plans in the comment field below, or contact us directly! If there is a sufficiently strong response, we may consider setting up an Innocenti conference on “Famines and anthropometric impact on adolescents,” hopefully soon enough to make a difference, as the world responds to the upcoming humanitarian disasters. Goran Holmqvist is Associate Director and Audrey Pereira is a consultant at UNICEF Innocenti. Explore the UNICEF Innocenti research catalogue for new publications. Follow UNICEF Innocenti on Twitter and sign up for e-newsletters on any page of the UNICEF Innocenti website.