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Child poverty in Britain

Cause and Consequences

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Published: May 2013

Aim of study

We examined how people perceive child poverty and how growing up in poverty affects children. It also addresses some of the underlying causes of child poverty.

Findings

  • We identified 5 types of child poverty, which provide a picture of the different lived experiences of poverty faced by families with children.
  • More children experience poverty than previously thought. Official measures put the number of children living in poverty at 20%, but this study shows that 38% of children have experienced poverty at least once in their lives.
  • Children move in and out of poverty, but a significant number (12%) remain in persistent poverty for three years or longer.
  • Poor outcomes for young children may also be the result of a family's size or parents' health and education, and often these factors go hand in hand with poverty.
  • Children that grow up in bad housing face a number of other disadvantages, including negative impacts on their health, education and social interactions.
  • Having a family bread winner does not guarantee that a child stays out of persistent poverty. Seven per cent of couples with one parent in work experience persistent poverty.
  • Public opinion is divided on whether child poverty is a problem. Nearly half, (41%) thought there was very little child poverty, while just over half (53 per cent) thought there was quite a lot of child poverty.
  • The causes of poverty may have been misunderstood by the general public. This study shows that very few poor parents are dependent on alcohol or drugs and family breakdown does not directly lead to child poverty, although these are frequently seen as the causes of child poverty.

Methodology

We collected data on families’ incomes, employment, parenting and a range of well-being measures for parents and children.  Most of our findings in this report come from secondary analysis of survey datasets such as Understanding Society (USoc), the Family Resources Survey (FRS) and the Families and Children Study (FACS). 

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Read the report