Why are children concentrated in households in poverty?


As a follow-up to Michael’s post this morning about Macclesfield, I have a question which I hope people might comment on. As Michael said, 30% of children living in south Macc are classified as being in poverty (using the government’s poverty line of being below 60% of median income). This is bang on the national average (see The Poverty Site which is, incidentally, an awesome site for statistics on poverty in the UK).

As The Poverty Site says, children are ‘much more likely to live in low income households than the population as a whole: 30% compared to 22%’. So my question is, why? Why are children concentrated in households that are in poverty? I can think of three explanations, none of which are very satisfying. (i) People in poverty have more children; (ii) Households that are just above the poverty line before having children get pushed below it because they do less paid work due to childcare needs; or (iii) Immigrants have significantly higher fertility rates and they are more likely to be in poverty.

Jill Kirby of the (Tory-leaning) Centre for Policy Studies seems to claim that it is the former. She says that women in the middle income bracket are ‘priced out of having children by a rise in house prices, a lack of tax incentives and spiralling living costs.‘ In fact, I can’t find any decent data on fertility rates disaggregated by socio-economic group (the only ones I’ve found are under FM1 No. 34 here). Birth registrations take data on the employment area of the father, from which loose socio-economic groupings can be approximated, but these can’t be used to make a comprehensive picture since birth registrations that are made without registering a father won’t appear in the data.

On the other two ideas, both presumably have an element of truth to them but it doesn’t seem likely to me that they would be sufficiently large effects to account for children being 36% more likely to be in poverty than adults. In particular, immigrants are a very small percentage of the population.

Given the amount of analysis that is done on poverty and its distribution, and the focus the government has placed on child poverty in particular, it seems odd to me that more analysis hasn’t been done and thereby better explanations put forward to account for why children are concentrated among the poor. Or I just haven’t found it. Any comments?



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