Eleonora Uphoff, Neil Small, Rosie McEachan and Kate Pickett
For some years, our research has been based in the city of Bradford in northern England. We are often asked to justify our research setting. There seems to be a concern that a cohort population that is not representative of the nation as a whole or of the ‘average person’ cannot produce valuable insights beyond its local setting.
While such concerns are not new, they now seem more present, perhaps due to the rise of Big Data or the increased sharing of and access to data from national surveys and cohorts. Do these reservations represent a push for representativeness and generalisability in epidemiology? If so, this might come at the expense of research aiming to paint a more detailed picture of population health.
Joan Benach, Alejandra Vives, Gemma Tarafa, Carlos Delclós and Carles Muntaner
João was 14 when he got his first job at a Brazilian bank. By the time he was 19, he was working part-time as an assistant to the board of directors of a multinational bank while working on a technical degree in foreign trade. He was earning about US$150 a month when he applied for a full-time position in the trade sector, but his application was denied because he was seen as too valuable in the position he held at the time. He then began to work on getting a university degree, but monthly payments cost more than what he was earning per month. When he saw his next transfer application for a different position in the trade sector denied, he left the university and decided to move to Canada. He felt that learning English would be a good way to improve his employment prospects.
Once there, he realised everything was more expensive than he had originally anticipated. Despite having only a tourist visa, João got a series of short-term jobs to support his English training. He worked brief stints as a carpet installer, an office assistant and, finally, as a bricklayer. It was in this final position that he earned CDN$29 an hour, over three times more than the minimum wage he’d earned in his previous jobs. Yet, as an undocumented worker, he was denied political, health and educational rights, and was constantly exposed to abuse by his employers and severe income insecurity. Moreover, the overlong work shifts, the exhausting nature of his tasks and a constant exposure to toxins took a substantial toll on his body.