Project: Impact of social policy on health



Individuals in a low socioeconomic position experience significant health disparities. The life expectancy of people with lowest welfare levels is, on average, 8 years lower than those with highest welfare levels. Additionally, their life expectancy in good health is even almost 25 (!) years lower. Despite several policy efforts, these health inequalities have not diminished in recent years. The ambition of the Dutch Research Agenda – Health Disparities program is to sustainably improve the health of individuals in a low socioeconomic position.

Aim of the project

This research project focuses on realizing health potential for two vulnerable groups: social welfare recipients and individuals with (the risk of) problematic debts. Social policies can improve the situation of these groups but may also have negative effects. This project aims to provide insights into how social policies can contribute to realizing health potential and be sustainably implemented to achieve breakthroughs.

The project contains four work packages: (1) Reviewing social policy interventions, (2) executing a realist evaluation of selected social policy intervention, (3) co-creating strategies to implement insights with (national) institutional actors, and (4) co-developing knowledge products and activities, targeting professionals, students, citizens and governments, to stimulate uptake and upscaling of the knowledge produced in the project.

Contribution to this project

Within this research project, the Leiden researchers (Ernst-Jan de Bruijn and Marike Knoef) will focus on studying the effects of social welfare and problematic debt interventions on labor market, financial, and health outcomes. We will use quasi-experimental techniques to gain insights into the causal effects of social policies, utilizing data sources from municipalities and the Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

The consortium consists of researchers from Wageningen University, Utrecht University, Leiden University, Tilburg University, and Utrecht University of Applied Sciences. The project also involves cooperation with the municipality of Rotterdam, the municipality of Amsterdam, various municipalities in the North-East Gelderland region, and various stakeholders.


Jantien van Berkel (Utrecht University)
Maikel van Waardenburg (Utrecht University)
Yvonne La Grouw (Utrecht University)
Milou Haggenburg (Municipality of Amsterdam)
Tamara Madern (University of Applied Sciences Utrecht)
Susanne Tonnon (University of Applied Sciences Utrecht)
Annemien Haveman (Wageningen University)
Hilje van der Horst (Wageningen University)
Emily de Vet (Tilburg University)
Marike Knoef (Tilburg University)
Ernst-Jan de Bruijn (Leiden University)
en_GBEnglish (UK)