About the project

The goal of the PREDLIFE project is to understand how complex and interdependent life paths unfold over time and how these trajectories are shaped by policy reforms. To this end we will develop an integrated methodological framework for modelling, predicting, and visualizing how policy reforms and interventions affect complex social processes. To test and exemplify our methods, we use high-quality register data covering the full populations of Finland and Sweden to better understand the interplay of work and family over the life course and the impacts of parental leave policies on parents’ life trajectories. We are especially interested in the causes and consequences of fathers’ parental leave uptake.

To reliably assess the various effects of past reforms or to predict the likely consequences of planned reforms, we must first understand how various events are interrelated and be able to model the system adequately. The main limitation with most of the impact evaluation studies and approaches is that they often simply focus on assessing differences in mean values of the outcome of interest between the “treated” and “non-treated”. Drawing from microsimulation methods and Bayesian causal inference, the approach taken in PREDLIFE is more ambitious since it seeks to understand the mechanisms producing the effects.

The project will open up new possibilities for investigating the impact of policy changes on the life course of individuals at unprecedented levels of accuracy, reliability and complexity. The project contributes to open science, decision making, and society at large by

  1. developing a new transparent and coherent modelling framework for complex life course data,
  2. providing accompanying free open-source software, and
  3. assessing the mechanisms and the various direct and indirect effects of past and potential parental leave reforms on parents’ long-term work–family life course.

PREDLIFE was launched in September 2020 and is carried out at the Department of Social Research, University of Turku (UTU) and at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Jyväskylä (JYU). The project strongly connects sociological research, causal decision making and prediction problems, development of statistical methodology, statistical software development, and efficient visual dissemination of the results.

The consortium PI and the leader of the sociology subproject is Dr Satu Helske (UTU) and the PI of the statistics subproject is Dr Jouni Helske (JYU). The whole research team is introduced here. PREDLIFE is funded by the Academy of Finland in 2020–2024 and is part of the research flagship Inequalities, Interventions, and New Welfare State (INVEST). It is also strongly connected to the JYU thematic research area of Decision analytics utilizing causal models and multiobjective optimization (DEMO).