Laura Sochas on social policies, reproductive injustice and health

laura sochas

“Those in power shape the policies – in the health sector and beyond – that affect health and health inequalities. Given that the social determinants of health are the main drivers of health inequalities, especially in high income countries, it is essential that we study how social policies affect health inequalities via the social determinants of health.”

Laura is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow who researches the links between power, institutions, social policies and health. Since joining DSPI in September 2020 her research specialism has come to focus on how reproductive injustice, embedded in social policies, affect adults’ health. 

Laura’s work is embedded with reproductive justice - a framework proposed by Black feminist activists and scholars from the US, such as Dorothy Roberts and the Sistersong collective - which has three core values: the right to not have children, the right to have children, and the right to parent with dignity. 

“While we have good evidence that violating people’s right not to have children is damaging for their health, such evidence does not yet exist concerning people’s right to parent with dignity. My research investigates whether enabling or constraining people’s right to parent with dignity is associated with health outcomes. Secondly, while reproductive justice demonstrates the crucial importance of social policies beyond reproductive healthcare, less academic attention has been devoted to these relative to abortion, IVF and the use of contraception for population control. Thirdly, no study has yet proposed a quantitative operationalisation of Reproductive Justice.” 

The extent to which family, migration, and labour market policies unequally affect the “right to parent with dignity” sits at the core of Laura’s research, which she’s evaluating by comparing policies and outcomes across European countries.The research compares the extent to which different population categories face unequal entitlements to benefits according to their migration/residence status, income-level, and level of attachment to the labour market. The work also evaluates whether the association between having (or not having) the children individuals  intend to have and health, is modified by these unequal policy entitlements, and shapes people’s rights to parent with dignity across population groups and countries. 

This research obtained Laura the British Society for Population Studies 2023 early career award - an award that highlights the achievements of early career researchers who have the potential to make a significant contribution to population studies. Deemed “impressive for its innovation and cross-disciplinarity”, the judges commented that this work had the potential both to disrupt the discipline of demography in a constructive way, and also to improve dialogue between demography and other disciplines. Her work on ‘Quantitative approaches for critical & feminist population studies: structure & heterogeneity’ will be presented at the British Society for Populations Studies’s annual conference in September.

Prior to her doctoral research, Laura worked for over seven years in the global health and development sector, for clients such as European Commission, UKAID, the Gates Foundation, and UNFPA, on topics ranging from maternal and newborn health, to human resources for health, health financing, and the use of evidence & accountability in public health policy. She completed her DPhil in Demography and Msc in Social Research Methods and Public Administration from the London School of Economics, and undertook a BA in Philosophy, Politics & Economics at Oxford. Originally from Paris, Laura has studied and worked in the UK for most of her adult life, with stints in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, and Zambia where she conducted her doctoral research on maternal health inequalities.

Find out more about Laura’s research and publications on her profile page

During September Laura will transfer to the University of Edinburgh. more details can be found here