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Accounting for social mobility, migration and geography in trends in health inequalities using longitudinal data on individual outcomes

School of Business

About the Project

The Scottish Government has identified the persistence of health inequalities as a key challenge in health care and social policy, with trends in health inequalities now regularly monitored utilising routinely collected data on population health outcomes. However, interpretation of this evidence is problematic, since the population composition of areas may itself change over time through selective mortality and social and spatial mobility. This project will apply a range of novel decomposition techniques to data from the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS) in order to improve understanding of the impact of these drivers of change on health inequalities across Scotland.

Aims & Research Questions
The project will use data from the 1991, 2001 and 2011 waves of the Scottish Longitudinal Survey to to evaluate the effects of compositional changes including selective mortality and social and spatial mobility on health inequalities:
Aim 1: To assess the respective contributions of socioeconomic, health and population changes to trends in health inequalities at a national level.
RQ1: What accounts for trends in socioeconomic-related health inequalities in Scotland as a whole?

Aim 2: To evaluate the relative importance of internal sub-national migration as a driver of health inequalities.
RQ2: What part does internal migration play in explaining the scale and persistence of differences in health inequalities both within and between different regions of Scotland?

Aim 3: To investigate spatial differences in health inequalities – whether there is non-stationarity in relationships between morbidity and their correlates and hypothesised determinants.
RQ3: How important are variations in local spatial context in explaining health differentials?

Expected research outcomes
The research will both build on and complement the work by the Scottish Government to monitor health inequalities. In particular it will be of value to contextualise the performance of policies designed to tackle health inequalities in Scotland by assessing the contributions of selective mortality and social and spatial mobility to historical trends.

The student will acquire skills and experience that are more broadly applicable to the study both of other socioeconomic outcomes, e.g. educational attainment, and similar longitudinal datasets in other countries.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Professor Paul Allanson ()
For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK in a relevant discipline.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 5.5 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s English language requirements are available online:


Step 1: Email Professor Paul Allanson () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Professor Allanson, formal applications can be made via UCAS Postgraduate. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Economics: Select the start date and study mode (full-time/part-time) agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the ‘provider questions’ section of the application form:
- Write the project title and ‘’ in the ‘if your application is in response to an advertisement’ box;
- Write the lead supervisor’s name and give brief details of your previous contact with them in the ‘previous contact with the University of Dundee’ box.

In the ‘personal statement’ section of the application form, outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.

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