Ph.D. in Childhood Studies 2016 Graduates:
Neeta Goel

Neeta Goel

Rutgers–Camden will confer doctoral degrees to six graduates of its landmark Ph.D. in childhood studies program during the Faculty of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19. Launched as the nation’s first doctorate in childhood studies in 2007, the program provides an advanced theoretical and methodological study of children and childhood. It prepares scholars capable of innovative research in this interdisciplinary field, as well as policy leaders with new perspectives in child-related social practice.

In a series of portraits, these esteemed graduates share their Rutgers–Camden academic experiences and offer words of advice for others interested in pursuing a doctorate in childhood studies.

Neeta Goel
Prior Education: University of Delhi, B.A., political science; University of Mumbai, master of social work
Hometown: Delhi, India
Currently Residing: Camden, N.J.

A Passion for Helping Children
I’m passionate about working with children, and have spent much of my career as an aid worker working with disadvantaged children. I chose the Childhood Studies program because it focuses on children and childhoods, and offers the opportunity to study issues surrounding them from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Dissertation
My dissertation evaluates the effects of an antipoverty intervention on children in India. About a decade ago, the Indian government initiated a policy that provided 100 days of work to adults in rural households. Although parental employment programs do not directly affect children, we know children can benefit from additional household income.

I used data from a nationally representative survey to evaluate the effects of this policy on about 71,000 children, ages 5-17. I found that we may be mistaken in our assumption that these programs always benefit children. Results suggest that children living in households participating in the policy were more likely to be engaged in domestic work, both paid and unpaid, as compared with children in nonparticipant households.

However, because my study is not an experimental study, it is not possible to attribute the higher incidence of child work to the policy. In other words, it is possible that the policy is having the unintended consequence of increasing child work. It is also possible that certain households are more likely to work under the policy. So, for instance, if households that are less conscientious about sending children to school are also the ones most likely to work under the policy, this could explain the higher incidence of child work in these households.

If children are working, they are not in school, which has long-term implications. So, while the policy may not directly be increasing the incidence of child labor, it is also not doing enough to decrease it. What is concerning about the study results is that, to the extent that the policy has the unintended consequence of increasing child work, or fails to address poverty effectively, this may have long-term implications for the transmission of poverty across generations. These findings are also a reminder that policies and interventions can have unintended effects, and it is important to look out for these.

Going Global
I’m returning to India, my home country, to work with an international nonprofit that focuses on evaluating antipoverty interventions across the world. A significant part of my work involves doing research, and I’m excited to be able to use and expand upon the knowledge and skills I have acquired during my time here.

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