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Report Card 10 - Measuring Child Poverty


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This is the latest instalment of the UNICEF Office of Research Report Card series, aimed at focusing on the well-being of children in industrialized countries. It considers two views of child poverty …

This is the latest instalment of the UNICEF Office of Research Report Card series, aimed at focusing on the well-being of children in industrialized countries. It considers two views of child poverty in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): a measure of absolute deprivation, and a measure of relative poverty.

The two measures, though separate in concept, highlight significant disparities in the living conditions of children. Of the countries surveyed, around 15% of children are considered “deprived” and a similar proportion live below their national poverty line.

This report card argues that accurate and timely monitoring of child poverty and deprivation is crucial for gauging what is happening to vulnerable children now. It argues that even during times of economic hardship, with the right evidence-based policies, it is possible to protect vulnerable children.

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  • 1. UNICEFInnocenti Research CentreReport Card 10Measuringchild povertyNew league tables of child povertyin the world’s rich countries
  • 2. Innocenti Report Card 10 was written by Peter Adamson.Two background papers from the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centresupport this Report:1. Bradshaw, J., Y. Chzhen, C. de Neubourg, G. Main, B. Martorano and L. Menchini (2012), ‘Relative Income Poverty among Children in Rich Countries’, Innocenti Working Paper 2012-01, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence. de Neubourg, C., J. Bradshaw, Y. Chzhen, G. Main, B. Martorano and L. Menchini (2012), ‘Child Deprivation, Multidimensional Poverty and Monetary Poverty in Europe’, Innocenti Working Paper 2012-02, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre would like to acknowledge thegenerous support for Report Card 10 provided by the Andorran,Belgian, Swiss and United Kingdom National Committees for UNICEF. Which countries are included?Any part of this Innocenti Report Card may be freely reproduced usingthe following reference:UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2012), ‘Measuring Child Poverty:New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’,Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence. Data on child deprivation rates are drawn from the 2009 round of the European Union Statistics on Income and Living ConditionsThe Report Card series is designed to monitor and compare the and are therefore available for 29performance of economically advanced countries in securing the rights countries, i.e. all 27 countries ofof their children. the European Union plus NorwayThe Innocenti Research Centre (IRC) was established in Florence, Italy and Iceland. Most of these (23in 1988 to strengthen the research capability of the United Nations out of 29) are also members ofChildren’s Fund (UNICEF) and to support its advocacy for children the Organisation for Economicworldwide. IRC is the dedicated research hub of the UNICEF Office of Co-operation and DevelopmentResearch (OOR), which provides global leadership for the organization’s (OECD). The exceptions arestrategic research agenda around children. The Office aims to set out a Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia,comprehensive framework for research and knowledge within the Lithuania, Malta and Romania,organization, in support of its global programmes and policies. Through which are EU member states,strengthening research partnerships with leading academic institutions but not members of the OECD.and development networks in both the North and South, the Office Data on relative child povertyseeks to leverage additional resources and influence in support of rates are also available for sixefforts towards policy reform in favour of children. additional OECD countriesThe Centres publications are contributions to a global debate on child (Australia, Canada, Japan,rights and help facilitate full implementation of the Convention on the New Zealand, Switzerland, andRights of the Child in low-, middle- and high-income countries. The the United States). The analysisviews expressed are those of the authors and researchers and do not of relative child poverty thereforenecessarily reflect the policies or views of UNICEF . includes the following 35 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium,© United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), May 2012 Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark,ISBN: 978-88-8912-965-4 Estonia, Finland, France,ISSN: 1605-7317 Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan,UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg,Piazza SS. Annunziata, 12 Malta, the Netherlands,50122 Florence, Italy New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia,Tel: (+39) 055 2033 0 Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,Fax: (+39) 055 2033 220 Switzerland, United Kingdom, United
  • 3. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 1UNICEFInnocenti Research CentreThis report sets out the latest internationally comparable data onchild deprivation and relative child poverty. Taken together, thesetwo different measures offer the best currently available pictureof child poverty across the world’s wealthiest nations.Previous reports in this series have shown that failure toprotect children from poverty is one of the most costly mistakesa society can make. The heaviest cost of all is borne by thechildren themselves. But their nations must also pay a verysignificant price – in reduced skills and productivity, in lowerlevels of health and educational achievement, in increasedlikelihood of unemployment and welfare dependence, in thehigher costs of judicial and social protection systems, and inthe loss of social cohesion.The economic argument, in anything but the shortest term, istherefore heavily on the side of protecting children from poverty.Even more important is the argument in principle. Becausechildren have only one opportunity to develop normally in mindand body, the commitment to protection from poverty must beupheld in good times and in bad. A society that fails to maintainthat commitment, even in difficult economic times, is a societythat is failing its most vulnerable citizens and storing upintractable social and economic problems for the yearsimmediately ahead.It is for these reasons that this comparative snapshot of childpoverty in the industrialized nations is presented for theattention of political leaders, press and public.
  • 4. 2 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0T W O VI E WS OF CHILD POV ER TYNew league tables of child povertyin the world’s rich countriesFig. 1a A league table of child 0.9 Icelanddeprivation, 29 economicallyadvanced countries 1.3 Sweden 1.9 NorwayFigure 1a shows the percentage of children(aged 1 to 16) who lack two or more 2.5 Finlandof the following 14 items because the 2.6 Denmarkhouseholds in which they live cannotafford to provide them. 2.7 Netherlands 4.4 Luxembourg1. Three meals a day2. At least one meal a day with meat, 4.9 Ireland chicken or fish (or a vegetarian 5.5 United Kingdom equivalent) 7.0 Cyprus3. Fresh fruit and vegetables every day 8.1 Spain4. Books suitable for the child’s age and knowledge level (not including 8.3 Slovenia schoolbooks) 8.7 Austria5. Outdoor leisure equipment (bicycle, 8.8 Czech Republic roller-skates, etc.) 8.8 Germany6. Regular leisure activities (swimming, playing an instrument, participating in 8.9 Malta youth organizations etc.) 9.1 Belgium7. Indoor games (at least one per child, 10.1 France including educational baby toys, building blocks, board games, 12.4 Estonia computer games etc.) 13.3 Italy8. Money to participate in school trips 17.2 Greece and events 19.2 Slovakia9. A quiet place with enough room and light to do homework 19.8 Lithuania10. An Internet connection 20.9 Poland11. Some new clothes (i.e. not all 27.4 Portugal second-hand) 31.8 Latvia12. Two pairs of properly fitting shoes (including at least one pair of 31.9 Hungary all-weather shoes) 56.6 Bulgaria13. The opportunity, from time to time, to 72.6 Romania invite friends home to play and eat14. The opportunity to celebrate special 0 10 20 30 occasions such as birthdays, name days, religious events, etc. Child deprivation (% of children lacking two or more items) Note: Data refer to children aged 1 to 16. Source: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009. The data are drawn from the 2009 round of the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) and are not available for non-European countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • 5. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 3Introduction children in each country who are Figure 1b shows the percentage of deprived – i.e. ‘lacking two or more’ children living in relative poverty,The league tables on these pages of 14 items considered normal and defined as living in a household whosepresent the latest available data on child necessary for a child in an income, when adjusted for family sizepoverty across the world’s rich nations. economically advanced country and composition, is less than 50% ofFigure 1a, made available here for the (see opposite for the full list). the median income for the country infirst time, shows the proportion of which they live.Fig. 1b A league table of relative child 4.7 Icelandpoverty, 35 economically advanced 5.3 Finlandcountries 6.1 CyprusFigure 1b shows the percentage of children 6.1 Netherlands(aged 0 to 17) who are living in relative 6.1 Norwaypoverty, defined as living in a household in 6.3 Sloveniawhich disposable income, when adjusted 6.5 Denmarkfor family size and composition, is less 7.3 Swedenthan 50% of the national median income. 7.3 Austria 7.4 Czech Republic 8.1 Switzerland 8.4 Ireland 8.5 Germany 8.8 France 8.9 Malta 10.2 Belgium 10.3 Hungary 10.9 Australia 11.2 Slovakia 11.7 New Zealand 11.9 Estonia 12.1 United Kingdom 12.3 Luxembourg 13.3 Canada 14.5 Poland 14.7 Portugal 14.9 Japan 15.4 Lithuania 15.9 Italy 16.0 Greece 17.1 Spain 17.8 Bulgaria 18.8 Latvia 23.1 USA 25.5 Romania 0 10 20 30 40 Child poverty rate (% of children living in households with equivalent income lower than 50% of national median) Note: Data refer to children aged 0 to 17. Sources: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009, HILDA 2009, SLID 2009, SHP 2009, PSID 2007. Results for New Zealand are from Perry (2011). Results for Japan are from Cabinet Office, Gender Equality Bureau (2011). Some OECD countries – Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States – are included in the league table of relative child poverty (Figure 1b) but could not be included in the league table of child deprivation (Figure 1a) because relevant data are not available. Child deprivation data are drawn from the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions and are therefore only available for the 27 EU countries plus Iceland and Norway.
  • 6. 4 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0As may be seen at a glance, the two the child poverty rate is one of the greater likelihood of teenageleague tables project two very different most important of all indicators of a pregnancy to the increased probabilitypictures of child poverty in the world’s society’s health and well-being. For the of drug and alcohol abuse. That thererich nations. What these different here and now, it is a measure of what are many exceptions – many childrenpictures mean – the relationship is happening to some of society’s most who grow up in economically poorbetween them and the controversies vulnerable members. For the years to families who do not fall into any ofsurrounding them – is the subject of come, it is a pointer to the well-being these categories – does not alter thethis Report Card. and cohesion of society as a whole. fact that poverty in childhood is closely and consistently associated with Previous reports in this series have measurable disadvantage both forSlipping down the agenda presented the evidence for the close individuals and for the societies inIn the wake of statistics following the association between child poverty which they live.ipost-2008 economic crises, the child and a long list of individual and socialpoverty rate has rarely surfaced. risks – from impaired cognitive A commitment to protecting children“In a downturn,” says Sharon Goldfeld, development to increased behavioural from poverty is therefore more thanNational Director of the Australian difficulties, from poorer physical health a slogan or a routine inclusion in aEarly Development Index, “the first to underachievement in school, from political manifesto; it is the hallmarkthing that happens is that children drop off lowered skills and aspirations to higher of a civilized society.the policy agenda.” Yet it is arguable that risks of welfare dependency, from the Box 1 Children and recession There are almost no internationally comparable data on The possible impact of the economic downturn on what is happening to child poverty as a result of the efforts to reduce child poverty rates has also recently economic downturn of the last three years. been estimated for the United Kingdom, where the Child Poverty Act of 2010 has set legally binding targets It is nonetheless evident that front-line services for for reducing child poverty. By 2020, the relative child families are everywhere under strain as austerity poverty rate is to be halved to no more than 10%. measures increase the numbers in need while depleting (‘Absolute income poverty‘ – defined as living on the services available. It is also clear that the worst is an income below 60% of the median income for yet to come. Many families, even those on low incomes, the benchmark year 2010 and updated only for inflation have some form of ‘cushion’ – whether in the form of – is to be cut from 20% to 5%.) savings, assets, or help from other family members – by which to maintain spending during difficult times. There But as the Act came into force, the economic crisis is therefore almost always a time lag between the onset was already beginning to threaten social protection of an economic crisis and the full extent of its impact. programmes. Child benefits, for example, have been frozen for three years – meaning that in real terms they will fall in value. Child tax credits and other Commitment programmes designed to protect the poorest children In Ireland, a leader in both the theory and practice of have been cut back. monitoring child poverty, some data are available to estimate the effects on children and families of a What difference are such changes likely to make severe contraction in the national economy. Between to the UK’s long-term efforts to bring down child 2009 and 2010, for example, Ireland’s own child poverty rates? deprivation index showed a rise of almost 7 percentage Reversal points, from 23.5% to 30.2%.1 Over the same period, falling median incomes meant that relative child poverty According to an October 2011 report from the Institute rose by less than one percentage point – again showing for Fiscal Studies (IFS),2 the likeliest prospect is that the the value of using the two different measures progress of recent years will be thrown into reverse. discussed in this report. Although currently thought to be stable, the child poverty rate is predicted to begin rising again in 2013.
  • 7. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 5A crisis of monitoring reveal a crisis of monitoring. In both “The discourse on poverty is very confusing,” cases the data they present, although says Jonathan Bradshaw, Professor ofIn practice, making good on this the latest available, are mostly drawn Social Policy at the University of Yorkcommitment is impossible without from surveys conducted in 2009. They and one of the authors of the statisticalclose monitoring of what is happening are therefore at least two to three years analysis on which this report draws:iito children’s lives. It is monitoring that old.* This would be bad enough at the “We tend to mix up concepts and measuresmakes possible evidence-based policy, best of times. But these are not the best and use different words to describe the samepolitical accountability, informed thing and the same words to describeadvocacy and the cost-effective use of of times. And it is a significant failing, different things.” iiilimited public resources. The on behalf of many governments ofavailability of timely data is therefore OECD countries, that the available data Many of the questions and confusionsin itself an indicator of whether the on children’s lives do not yet reflect the about the measurement of childcommitment to protecting children is impact of the economic downturn poverty are encompassed by the twobeing taken seriously or not. (see Box 1: Children and recession). league tables with which this report begins. It may therefore be helpful toThe two league tables, Figures 1a and Underlying weak monitoring is the summarize the principal differences1b, therefore reveal more than the lack of any robust public or political between them.percentages of children living in consensus on how child povertydifferent kinds of poverty. They also should be defined and measured.Looking further ahead, levels of ‘relative’ and ‘absolute’child poverty are expected to reach 24% and 23% Relative child poverty rate,respectively by 2020/21 – compared to the target figures United Kingdom, 1998–2020of 10% and 5%. This would mean a return to the relative 28child poverty levels of two decades ago. 26Such forecasts, says the IFS, are “always highly 24uncertain.” In particular, they cannot accurately predict Predictedthe impact of, and responses to, the tax and benefit 22changes currently in the pipeline. They are nonetheless 20the best available independent estimate of “what mighthappen to poverty under current government policies.” 18Since these forecasts were made, the commitment to 16increase child credits by more than the rate of inflation in 142012 and 2013 has been abandoned. According to IFS Targetcalculations, this decision alone is likely to mean that 12another 100,000 children will fall below the relative 10 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020poverty line. Source: Data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, London, October 2011. The graph shows the percentage of children living in households below 60% of equivalized median income before housing costs. For illustrative purposes, the Target line assumes linear progress towards the 2020 goal.1 Central Statistics Office Ireland, Government of Ireland, 2011.2 Brewer, M., J. Browne and R. Joyce (2011). Child and Working-age Poverty from 2010 to 2020, Institute for Fiscal Studies, London.* EU-SILC 2009: data on income refers to 2008, other data to 2009. Poverty data was released in early 2010.
  • 8. 6 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0A deprivation index 5. Outdoor leisure equipment Overall, the league table shows that (bicycle, roller-skates, etc.) approximately 85% of the almostFigure 1a, a League Table of ChildDeprivation, represents a significant 6. Regular leisure activities 85 million children (aged 1 to 16) innew development in the international (swimming, playing an 29 European countries have at least 13monitoring of child poverty. For the instrument, participating in youth of the 14 items in the deprivationfirst time, the European Union Statistics organizations etc.) index and are therefore ‘not deprived’.on Income and Living Conditions, 7. Indoor games (at least one per The second most obvious feature ofsampling more than 125,000 child, including educational baby the table is that the highest rates ofhouseholds in 29 European countries, toys, building blocks, board deprivation are to be found in somehas included a section on the lives of games, computer games etc.) of the newest and poorest memberchildren aged 1 to 16. Using this data, countries of the European Union.the UNICEF Innocenti Research 8. Money to participate in school Over 30% are seen to be deprived inCentre has constructed the 14-item trips and events Hungary and Latvia, over 50% inChild Deprivation Index on which 9. A quiet place with enough room Bulgaria and over 70% in Romania.League Table 1a is based. and light to do homework For Central and Eastern European 10. An Internet connection countries, therefore, the league table ofThe 14 items in the index child deprivation makes grim reading.encompass the ability of 11. Some new clothes (i.e. not allhouseholds to afford: second-hand) Among the richest 15 countries, all1. Three meals a day except France and Italy have child 12. Two pairs of properly fitting deprivation rates below 10%. But2. At least one meal a day with shoes (including at least one pair clearing a bar that is set so low does meat, chicken or fish (or a of all-weather shoes) not warrant any great applause. In vegetarian equivalent) 13. The opportunity, from time to the world’s wealthiest nations the3. Fresh fruit and vegetables time, to invite friends home to proportion of children lacking two every day play and eat or more of these basic items should4. Books suitable for the child’s 14. The opportunity to celebrate be at or close to zero. Yet in practice age and knowledge level special occasions such as birthdays, only Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the (not including schoolbooks) name days, religious events etc. Netherlands, Norway and Sweden haveFig. 2a Percentage of children deprived in countries with Fig. 2b Percentage of children deprived in countries withGDP per capita between $13,000 – $25,000 (PPP) GDP per capita between $25,000 – $36,000 (PPP) 80 30 72.6 27.4 70 25 60 56.6 20 50 % Children deprived% Children deprived 17.2 40 15 13.3 31.8 31.9 30 10.1 10 8.8 8.3 8.1 19.8 20.9 20 19.2 7.0 5.5 12.4 5 10 8.9 2.5 0 0 Portugal ($25,058) Czech Republic ($25,572) Slovenia ($27,556) Greece ($29,303) Cyprus ($30,728) Spain ($32,262) Italy ($32,413) France ($33,349) United Kingdom ($35,145) Finland ($35,254) Bulgaria ($13,764) Romania ($14,216) Latvia ($16,166) Lithuania ($17,059) Poland ($18,925) Estonia ($19,690) Hungary ($20,275) Slovakia ($22,875) Malta ($24,804) (per capita GDP in parentheses) (per capita GDP in parentheses)
  • 9. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 7child deprivation rates below 3%. For Relative poverty league behind). All of these countries haveAustria, Belgium and Germany, the rate relative child poverty rates below 7%. The second of the two league tablesclimbs to 8% or more. In France and Another eight countries including two (Figure 1b) paints a very differentItaly the rate rises above the 10% mark. of the largest – Germany and France – picture of child poverty in the world’s advanced economies. have rates between 7% and 10%. A thirdMore with less group, including Australia, Canada, It includes six OECD countries that New Zealand and the United Kingdom,Looked at as a whole, the child do not participate in EU-SILC post rates of between 10% and 15%.deprivation table may therefore seem (Australia, Canada, Japan, A further six, including populous Italyto present little more than a blurred New Zealand, Switzerland and the and Spain, show rates of between 15%reflection of each country’s level of per United States), and is based on the and 20%. In only two countries arecapita income. But a closer look reveals definition of relative poverty used by more than 20% of children living inthat some countries are in fact the OECD. Under this definition, a relative poverty – Romania and theachieving much more – and some child is deemed to be living in relative United States.much less – than their income levels poverty if he or she is growing up in awould predict. Estonia, Hungary and household where disposable income, Overall, the divide between thePoland, for example, have roughly when adjusted for family size and wealthy and not-so-wealthy nations isequivalent per capita incomes but composition, is less than 50% of the much less clear-cut. Hungary, Slovakiawidely varying rates of child median disposable household income and Estonia, for example, are seen todeprivation (see Figure 2a). Portugal for the country concerned.* By this have a smaller proportion of childrenand the Czech Republic both have per standard, more than 15% of the 200 living in relative poverty than thecapita incomes of about PPP $25,000, million children in the 35 countries United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, or thebut Portugal’s child deprivation level is listed in Figure 1b are seen to be living United States. Clearly, this is notthree times higher (see Figure 2b). in relative poverty. because a smaller proportion of theirBelgium and Germany have similar children are poor in an absolute sense;per capita incomes to Denmark and The top five positions in the league it is because the incomes of most poorSweden – but child deprivation rates table are occupied by Iceland, Finland, households in these former centrally-that are about three and seven times Cyprus, the Netherlands and Norway planned economies do not fall as farhigher (see Figure 2c). (with Slovenia and Denmark close behind the median level of income for the nation as a whole. Finally, it is worth noting that – despite the very different measures of child poverty employed in these two league tables – sevenFig. 2c Percentage of children deprived in countries with countries are ranked in the top 10 in bothGDP per capita between $36,000 – $85,000 (PPP) – Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, 10 the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. 9.1 9 8.8 8.7 Controversy 8 What are we to make of these two very different pictures of child poverty 7 in the world’s richest nations?% Children deprived 6 First, it is important to resist the 4.9 temptation to see the two different 5 4.4 views presented in Figures 1a and 1b 4 as contradictory or mutually exclusive. Both are valid. Both can inform policy. 3 2.6 2.7 And both make it clear that some countries are doing a much better job 1.9 2 than others at protecting their children 1.3 0.9 from poverty. 1 0 Note: Data refer to children aged 1 to 16. Belgium ($36,279) Germany ($36,320) Iceland ($36,733) Sweden ($37,157) Denmark ($37,672) Austria ($38,804) Ireland ($39,643) Netherlands ($40,796) Norway ($55,717) Luxembourg ($84,766) Sources: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009 for child deprivation and * Most European Union countries draw the relative on World Development poverty line at 60% of national median income. For Indicators (2011) for GDP purposes of international comparison, the OECD (and per capita, PPP (current this Report Card series) uses a relative poverty line (per capita GDP in parentheses) international $). drawn at 50% of median income.
  • 10. 8 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0The two measures are, however, ‘Real’ poverty This is a mistake. Both are relativeprofoundly different in concept. It is often argued that relative poverty measures.The most important difference between isn’t ‘real poverty’. Real poverty, it is The deprivation index is based on thethem is that the child deprivation table said, means lacking basics - enough kind of possessions, services anduses a fixed measure for all 29 countries food to eat, adequate clothing, a dry opportunities that most people wouldsurveyed; the criterion applied (lacking home, an indoor toilet, hot water, and consider normal for a child growingtwo or more from the same list of 14 a bed to sleep in. Once you leave such up in a wealthy country today. Initems) is exactly the same for Sweden basics behind and start drawing other words, it is relative to both timeor the United States as it is for Bulgaria poverty lines based on statistical and place. Twenty years ago, foror Romania. Inevitably, therefore, it notions like median income, it is example, such a list would not haveputs the emphasis on the differences argued, you end up with results that included an Internet connection. Gobetween richer and poorer countries. fail to make intuitive sense and so back a little further in time andThe criterion used to measure relative fail to convince either politicians or ‘having at least one meal a day withchild poverty, by contrast, changes with public. Can the child poverty rate meat, chicken or fish’ would not havethe median income of each country; it really be said to be rising, for example, been regarded as normal. In fact thetherefore transfers the emphasis to the at a time when the incomes of the longer the historical view the more poor are also rising? And can there obvious it becomes that poverty is angap between the bottom and the really be more children in poverty essentially relative concept. Anymiddle in the living standards of in the United Kingdom or the poverty line intended to represent achildren within each country. United States than in Hungary or minimum acceptable standard of livingIt is because of this difference that the Lithuania (as shown in Figure 1b)? in the industrialized world todaypoorer countries in Figure 1a tend to Or are these findings just statistical implies higher standards of food,have significantly higher rates of child artefacts produced by a definition of clothing, housing, water supply,deprivation but may or may not have child poverty that is in effect based sanitation, health care, education,higher rates of relative income poverty. on a concern not with poverty but transport and entertainment than wereFor the same reason, the two different with inequality? available to even the wealthiestmeasures tend to respond to economic households of previous eras. Such are the arguments that pushand policy changes in very different many to reject the relative income The whole idea of defining childways.iv In periods of sustained measure and to embrace instead the poverty in an absolute sense thereforeeconomic growth, for example, the direct measurement of deprivation. rests on shaky ground. Unless we wishproportion of a nation’s children Does the child have three meals a day? to argue that the threshold should bedefined as ‘deprived’ will almost A few books in the home? And a roof set at the minimum income necessarycertainly fall as overall incomes rise. that doesn’t leak? Isn’t this a much for sheer physical survival then thereThe proportion living in relative income more intuitive measure, and one that can in fact be no such thing as anpoverty, on the other hand, may either is more capable of winning public absolute poverty line.rise or fall depending upon whether understanding and support?their household incomes grow by more The real debate, therefore, is notor less than the median income for the Direct measures of outcomes like whether poverty lines should benation concerned. To take a famous deprivation do have advantages over absolute or relative, but how and howexample, a decade of sustained indirect or ‘input’ measures such as often they should be updated to reflect household income (see Box 2: The changes in the living standards ofeconomic growth in the Ireland of the problem with incomes). But the trouble society as a whole. If the decision is1990s more than doubled the nation’s with the argument that deprivation taken, for example, to draw anmedian income, but the proportion of measures ‘real poverty’, whereas relative ‘absolute’ poverty line at some fixedchildren living in relative poverty also income does not, is that the intuitively point and to update it only forrose because the incomes of households appealing idea on which it rests is that inflation, then this means that a relativebelow the poverty line rose more poverty should be measured in an poverty line is being anchored to anslowly than the median income for the absolute rather than a relative sense. arbitrary point in time. As the yearscountry as a whole. And from here it is but a short step to pass and incomes rise, such a povertySuch examples bring us to the heart the belief that the deprivation index line is likely to fall further and furtherof one of the principal controversies presented in Figure 1a is an absolute behind the norm for the society andsurrounding the measurement of measure whereas the median income to become less and less useful. This ischild poverty. method used for Figure 1b is ‘only’ a essentially what has happened over the relative measure.
  • 11. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 9 Box 2 The problem with incomes Relative child poverty rates are usually estimated by σσ Income measures cannot reflect the fluctuations in assuming that household income is a reasonable guide income experienced by many households (for example to the material resources available to the child. But this as a result of overtime, bonuses, working shorter assumption is beset by problems.1 hours, becoming unemployed, or taking retirement). σσ Calculating a poverty rate from household income Among the concerns: data requires that some method be used to convert σσ Data on incomes may not be reliable, especially if household income into equivalent individual incomes derived from surveys, or if a significant proportion of (see Box 3: Do children have incomes?). To achieve the working population is self-employed or employed this, an ‘equivalence scale’ must be used. But such in informal work. Under-reporting of earnings varies scales are not based on any scientific understanding from country to country, and tends to be greater of the different patterns of need in households of towards the bottom end of the income scale. different size. σσ Most countries measure household incomes before σσ Household income measures cannot reflect the fact housing costs. In practice, a family’s capacity to that some families may be much more competent meet children’s needs is more likely to be dependent than others in managing income or in prioritizing on income after housing costs (which can vary spending (for example by putting children’s needs significantly within as well as between countries). first). The child of a high-income household, for σσ Income does not always reflect the real level of example, will not be counted as poor even if most of resources available. A family’s economic capacity, its the income is spent on drugs, gambling or alcohol; security and spending power, are based not only on conversely a child in a low-income household will be household income at a single point in time but also counted as poor even if the parents make enormous on savings and debts, on home ownership and house sacrifices to ensure that the child has the same values, on previous earnings and future expectations, advantages and opportunities as his or her peers. on the help that may be available from other family Some or all of these problems combine to introduce members, and perhaps on the value of home- doubts about household incomes as a measure of the produced goods such as food and clothes. real resources available to the child. And they help to σσ When used to compare child poverty in different explain why surveys have sometimes found that countries, income measures cannot take into account measures of household spending do not correspond to the fact that services such as health care and child measures of household incomes. At any given level of care may be subsidised or free in some countries but household income, for example, material living not in others. This may make a substantial difference standards tend to vary substantially according to to real ‘disposable household income’. whether they are assessed by incomes or by expenditures.2 In most advanced economies, household σσ Similarly, whether or not education, and particularly incomes are easier to monitor than expenditures. But pre-school education, is free or subsidised may make expenditure measures would in most cases provide a a substantial difference to disposable incomes. In more reliable guide to the real level of resources most advanced economies, primary and secondary available to the household. education is usually available free of charge. But early childhood education is subsidised to different degrees in different countries. The same is true of tertiary or college education, which may mean that parents in some countries must try to put aside 1 ee for example, Fusco, A., A-C. Guio and E. Marlier (2010). S significant sums even when their children are still ’Income Poverty and Deprivation in European Countries’, Eurostat Methodologies and Working Papers, European Commission, Luxembourg. young. Both of these factors affect real disposable 2 radshaw, J. and N. Finch (2003). ‘Overlaps in Dimensions of Poverty’. B incomes to different degrees in different countries. Journal of Social Policy, 32 (4): 513-525.
  • 12. 1 0 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0last half century in the United States Why, then, is it necessary to percentage of median income only(see Box 10: The United States: complicate the picture by adding a works well if the countries beingredrawing the line). second measure? Why introduce the compared have broadly similar levels Child Deprivation Index? of income and living costs. OtherwiseThe obvious alternative is to updatenational poverty lines in such a way as ‘relative poverty’ comes to mean veryto track the norms and living standards Relative weakness different living standards in differentof the society. But how often, and by countries: a household with 50% of The answer is that, for all its strengths,what method? Should the line be median income in Bulgaria has an the relative income measure has twoupdated irregularly in an ad hoc way, actual income of 11,400 a year; a principal weaknesses.subject to political pressures and the household with 50% of mediancompeting influences of different First, even those who support the income in Norway has an incomeinterest groups? Or should it be principle of measuring child poverty of 117,000 a year.updated in a regular and systematic way in a relative way would concede that One may argue that this doesn’t reallyin order to preserve its relationship with household income may not always be make any difference – that relativecontemporary living standards? In a reliable proxy for the real resources poverty means ‘relative to one’s ownwhich case, setting the poverty line at a available to the child (see Box 2: The particular society’ and not to thepercentage of each nation’s median problem with incomes). It is, at best, norms of some other country. But thisincome and updating it every year an indirect measure, leaving open the argument is only fully convincing formight, after all, be a strong contender. possibility that children may be the wealthier countries of the OECD deprived in households that are notThis is why the Innocenti Report Card where living on an income below income-poor and not deprived inseries, in common with both the 50% of the median is a plausible households that are income-poor.European Union and the OECD, measure of what it is intended tocontinues to use a child poverty line Second, when comparing relative measure – the sense of falling so farbased on a percentage of median child poverty rates in different behind the norms of one’s society ashousehold income. countries, a poverty line drawn at a to be at risk of social exclusionFig. 3 Poverty lines and median incomes, European countries140,000135,000130,000125,000120,000115,000110,000 15,000 0 Romania Bulgaria Hungary Lithuania Poland Latvia Slovakia Estonia Czech Republic Portugal Malta Greece Slovenia Spain Italy United Kingdom Cyprus Germany Belgium France Austria Netherlands Finland Sweden Iceland Ireland Denmark Luxembourg NorwayNote: Income figures for non Euro-zone countries are converted using purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates.Sources: Elaboration of 2009 European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions data and Eurostat.
  • 13. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 1 1(see Box 8: The public view). Life at $14,000 to around $85,000. A relative Finally there is the worry that50% of median income in poorer income poverty line based on 50% of comparing relative child poverty ratescountries like Bulgaria and Romania median incomes will inevitably on the basis of household incomesmay not signify the same level of struggle to reflect this new diversity. cannot take into account significantdifference, or imply the same degree differences between countries in the Figure 3 illustrates the problem. Thisof social exclusion, as it does in cost of living and especially in the shows, for example, that the 10 richestDenmark or Norway. That said, it costs of essential goods and services countries have poverty lines that areshould also be noted that at very low such as health and child care. An higher than the median incomes of thelevels of income even small differences income of $30,000 in country A, 10 poorest countries. This means thatcan make a significant difference to where such services are free or heavily children who are below the relativeopportunities and living standards. subsidized, may imply a very different poverty line in France or Germany standard of living from the sameSince the enlargement of the may be significantly better off in actual income in country B where suchEuropean Union to 25 countries in living standards than children who are items must be paid for at market rates.2004 and then to 27 countries in living at the median income level in2007, this problem of ‘the meaning of Poland or Portugal.v Or to take In sum, a relative poverty line drawn atthe median’ has become more pressing. another example, a child living at the 50% of median income is an attempt toCross-national comparisons in the relative poverty line in the Netherlands define a concept of poverty on whichEuropean Union must now span a has double the income of a child there is widespread agreement ingroup of countries whose annual per living at the median income level in a principle – a concept which says thatcapita incomes range from less than country like Hungary (Figure 3). the poor are those who do not have access to the possessions, amenities, activities and opportunities that are considered normal by most people in the society in which they live (seeFig. 4 A league table of relative child poverty, selected OECD countries Boxes 6, 8 and 9). But when using this 4.7 Iceland yardstick to make comparisons between countries, it is probably better to restrict 5.3 Finland the comparison to those generally 6.1 Netherlands wealthier countries where living on 6.1 Norway incomes below 50% of median implies a similar level of risk of social exclusion. 6.5 Denmark Figure 4, for example, restricts the 7.3 Sweden comparison of relative child poverty 7.3 Austria rates to the 20 OECD countries with annual per capita incomes of more 8.1 Switzerland than $31,000. 8.4 Ireland 8.5 Germany Deprivation doubts 8.8 France These concerns and problems have led 10.2 Belgium to increasing pressure for the relative income measure to be supplemented by 10.9 Australia a more direct measure of child poverty. 12.1 United Kingdom Within individual economically 12.3 Luxembourg advanced countries, direct measures of 13.3 Canada child deprivation are sometimes 14.9 Japan available. They have been deployed, for example, in Finland, Germany, Greece, 15.9 Italy Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and 17.1 Spain the United Internationally, 23.1 USA the Child Deprivation Index presented in Figure 1a is the first attempt to meet0 5 10 15 20 25 this need. As already noted, it is made Child poverty rate (% of children living in households with equivalent income lower than 50% of the national median)Note: Data refer to children aged 0 to 17.Sources: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009, HILDA 2009, SLID 2009, SHP 2009, PSID 2007. Results for Japanare from Cabinet Office, Gender Equality Bureau (2011).
  • 14. 1 2 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0possible by the decision of the living for a given group of countries at Further, there is the problem of theEuropean Union to include a special a given time? And who should decide? different needs of different agesection about children’s lives in the Should the items be chosen by groups. A personal computer, forEU-SILC survey (see Box 7: The experts? Or by opinion polls to find example, was originally included in aEuropean Union: 2020 vision). out which items are regarded as list of necessities proposed by the necessary by the population at large? European Union but subsequentlyAt first glance, this alternative sounds Or should they be selected (and dropped when it was shown that onlyquite straightforward: draw up a list of weighted) by investigating what 30% of the population considered aitems that most people think of as percentage of the population already computer to be ‘absolutely necessary’necessary for a child and conduct a possesses the items? Giving no or ‘necessary’.viii If the poll had beensurvey to find out what proportion of ‘weighting’ to the individual items is conducted among young people, asthe child population of each country not a neutral approach – it is alacks each of the items. opposed to the population as a whole, judgement that all the items on the it is reasonable to suppose that aIn practice, this too has its problems. list are of equal importance and that much higher proportion would haveFirst, deprivation statistics gleaned this is true for all of the countries categorized a computer as a necessity.from surveys may also be unreliable. being compared.What people consider to be necessaryfor their children, for example, mayvary with income and aspiration. Fig. 5 Child poverty rates by different relative poverty linesPresented with a list of items which Country poverty line at 50% poverty line at 40% poverty line at 60%corresponds to one’s own family Iceland 4.7 1.9 10.1possessions, it is likely that most items Finland 5.3 1.5 11.9will be judged as ‘necessary’. A list that Cyprus 6.1 1.8 12.1includes items that are not affordable, Netherlands 6.1 2.9 15.4on the other hand, may attract fewer Norway 6.1 3.1 11.3ticks in the ‘necessary’ box. The Slovenia 6.3 2.9 11.1tendency for what is considered Denmark 6.5 3.6 11.4normal to increase with incomes, and Sweden 7.3 3.7 12.7 Austria 7.3 3.2 13.6to decrease with persistent poverty, has Czech Republic 7.4 3.8 13.0often been observed. And it is not Switzerland 8.1 3.2 17.9difficult to see how this might affect Ireland 8.4 3.5 18.9the results of surveys about child Germany 8.5 4.6 14.9deprivation. Parents in poor France 8.8 3.7 16.8households may decide that certain Malta 8.9 2.9 20.3items are unnecessary because they are Belgium 10.2 4.1 16.6embarrassed or ashamed to admit that Hungary 10.3 3.0 20.6they are unable to provide them.vii Australia 10.9 4.3 17.6The published survey results may have Slovakia 11.2 6.6 17.0 New Zealand 11.7 19.4the appearance of objective data, but Estonia 11.9 6.1 20.6behind every statistic of child United Kingdom 12.1 5.6 20.8deprivation is an individual parent Luxembourg 12.3 4.2 22.4answering a survey question about Canada 13.3 7.3 21.9whether or not they can afford to Poland 14.5 7.5 22.9allow their child ‘to participate in Portugal 14.7 9.6 22.7school trips and events’, or ‘to invite Japan 14.9 9.6 20.5friends home to play and eat’, or ‘to Lithuania 15.4 8.8 24.3have a quiet place with enough room Italy 15.9 9.7 24.2 Greece 16.0 8.1 23.5and light to do homework’. Spain 17.1 11.5 23.6Then there is the problem of what Bulgaria 17.8 12.2 24.4items should be included in a Latvia 18.8 12.8 25.0deprivation index and what USA 23.1 16.6 31.1importance should be attached to each. Romania 25.5 17.8 32.3How do we know that the list reflects Note: The shading in the last three columns indicates whether a country ranks in the top third (light blue), middle third (mid-blue), or bottom third (dark blue) of the relevant league table.a minimum acceptable standard of Sources: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009, HILDA 2009, SLID 2009, SHP 2009, PSID 2007. Results for New Zealand are from Perry (2011) and refer to 2010. Results for Japan are from Cabinet Office, Gender Equality Bureau (2011).
  • 15. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 1 3Choosing a threshold (as in the European Union) or at 50% 14 items in the deprivation index? (as used by the OECD for purposes of Or at ‘three or more’ or ‘four orFinally, in this summary of the strengths international comparison)? By way of more’? For the league table of childand weaknesses of the different reassurance, Figure 5 shows that there deprivation in this report (Figure 1a),measures used in the two league tables is little change to the relative child the line is drawn at ‘lacking two orof child poverty, it should be noted that poverty rankings when the line is more’. But this decision is essentiallythere are problems common to both. drawn at different percentages of opportunistic: drawing the line atFirst, both the child deprivation median income. (It should also be ‘lacking one or more’ would havemeasure and the relative income borne in mind that in practice there given arbitrary emphasis to just onemeasure must confront the question may be little difference between life item on the list. It would also haveof where and how the threshold just below and just above whichever produced extremely high childshould be drawn. poverty threshold is chosen.) deprivation rates for the poorest EU countries. Setting the line at ‘lackingIn the case of relative income poverty, In the case of the deprivation three or more’, on the other hand,for example, should the line be drawn measure, should the threshold be would have produced extremelyat 60% of median household income set at ‘lacking two or more’ of the low deprivation rates for the wealthier countries. Secondly, both the deprivationFig. 6 Proportion of children in each country lacking 2, 3, 4 and 5 items or moreon the deprivation index measure and the relative income league table tell us what proportion of each nation’s children fall below the Country 2+ 3+ 4+ 5+ selected thresholds, but they tell us 29 European countries 13.3 9.8 7.4 5.8 nothing about how far below. Austria 8.7 5.3 3.7 2.4 Belgium 9.1 6.6 4.7 3.1 In the case of the deprivation measure, Bulgaria 56.6 49.2 41.1 36.3 the question of ‘how far below’ can in part be answered by setting a lower Cyprus 7.0 5.0 3.8 2.1 threshold for the Child Deprivation Czech Republic 8.8 6.1 4.7 3.1 Index. Figure 6, for example, shows Denmark 2.6 1.5 1.2 0.7 the proportion of children in each Estonia 12.4 7.7 4.5 3.3 country who lack 2, 3, 4 and 5 or Finland 2.5 0.6 0.2 0.0 more of the 14 items. France 10.1 6.5 3.9 2.6 Germany 8.8 6.2 3.9 2.8 In the case of the relative child poverty Greece 17.2 11.7 8.4 6.1 measure, the question ‘how far are those below the poverty line allowed Hungary 31.9 25.1 20.6 16.7 to fall?’ finds an approximate answer in Iceland 0.9 0.3 0.0 0.0 Figure 7 which compares 35 countries Ireland 4.9 2.5 1.4 0.6 by the depth of their poverty gaps – Italy 13.3 10.3 8.3 6.2 the difference between the median Latvia 31.8 25.2 20.7 15.9 income of households below the Lithuania 19.8 13.8 11.6 10.4 poverty line and the poverty line itself. Luxembourg 4.4 3.1 1.7 1.3 The findings of this table will be Malta 8.9 5.4 3.5 2.5 considered under the heading Assessing Netherlands 2.7 1.2 0.6 0.4 government performance (p.19). Norway 1.9 0.7 0.3 0.1 Poland 20.9 15.3 10.8 8.5 Overlaps Portugal 27.4 23.0 17.8 13.8 Given the strengths and weaknesses of Romania 72.6 62.0 53.8 46.8 these two very different ways of Slovakia 19.2 15.2 12.1 10.3 measuring and comparing child Slovenia 8.3 4.4 2.6 1.5 poverty, there is an obvious Spain 8.1 5.3 3.2 2.1 temptation to combine them in some Sweden 1.3 0.7 0.4 0.0 way in order to construct a single United Kingdom 5.5 2.8 1.7 1.3 overarching measure which wouldNote: Data refer to children aged 1 to 16. have the strengths of both and theSource: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009.
  • 16. 1 4 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0weaknesses of neither. It has been focusing on the overlap between them “Given two relevant pieces of informationsuggested, for example, that a single – asking what percentage of a nation’s about the household – income andmeasure of child poverty might be children are both deprived and living deprivation – each with limitations fromconstructed by counting as poor only in relative income poverty. This both conceptual and measurementthose children who are poor under approach, currently used for example perspectives, incorporating both into theboth definitions – i.e. those who lack in Austria, Ireland and the United measurement process is one way to seek totwo or more of the items on the Kingdom, helps to ease some of the improve reliability in identifying the poor.” ixdeprivation index and who live in worries surrounding the measurement In practice, household income remainshouseholds where incomes are less of poverty by means of household a principal determinant of whether orthan 50% of the national median. But incomes. As Professors Brian Nolan not the needs of children arethis would be to ignore the and Christopher Whelan, contributors adequately met. But it is not the onlyunderlying incompatibility – the fact to the development of Ireland’s official determinant. Public spending can alsothat the deprivation measure is based poverty measure, have written:on a definition which does not varyacross countries, whereas the relativeincome poverty measure is based on adefinition which changes from nation Fig. 7 The poverty gapto nation. To make the two measuresconceptually compatible, it would be 10.9 Finlandnecessary to adjust the deprivation 11.8 Hungaryindex so that both the list of items it 12.8 Icelandcontains and the threshold chosen 12.9 Irelandwould reflect a standard of living that 13.6 Australia 14.6 Luxembourgis considered normal or necessary in 15.0 Franceeach individual country. This could be 16.0 New Zealanddone, either by surveys to establish 16.1 Austriawhat proportion of the population 16.2 Switzerlandconsiders which items to be 16.3 Malta‘necessary’ (consensus weighting) or 17.6 Sloveniaby weighting each item according to 17.8 Belgiumwhat proportion of households in 17.9 Cypruseach country already own or have 18.4 Netherlandsaccess to each item (prevalence 18.8 United Kingdom 20.3 Estoniaweighting). But this procedure would 20.6 Czech Republicraise more problems than it solves 20.6 Polandwhile at the same time jettisoning the 20.7 Greecesimplicity and the intuitive appeal of 21.0 Norwaythe deprivation index. 21.1 Sweden 21.4 CanadaWhen used for international 22.3 Germanycomparison the two measures are 23.5 Lithuaniatherefore separate in concept and 27.1 Slovakiashould remain so in practice. Both the 29.8 Italychild deprivation rate and the relative 29.9 Portugalchild poverty rate are useful to 31.1 Japanpolicymakers, to social scientists, to the 31.3 Latviamedia, and to advocates for child well- 32.0 Bulgariabeing. Combining them into a 32.8 Denmarkcommon measure would be like 33.1 Spain 34.7 Romaniacombining oil and water, in that the 37.5 USAwhole would be less useful than thesum of the parts. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Child poverty gapWithin individual countries, on the (gap between the poverty line and the median income of those below the poverty line)other hand, it may be useful to Notes: The poverty gap is the distance between the poverty line and the median income of those below thecombine the two measures by poverty line (expressed as a percentage of the poverty line). Calculations are based on a poverty line set at 50% of the national median income. Countries are ranked by increasing levels of the child poverty gap. Sources: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009, HILDA 2009, SLID 2009, SHP 2009, PSID 2007. Results for New Zealand are from Perry (2011) and refer to 2010. Results for Japan are from Cabinet Office, Gender Equality Bureau (2011).
  • 17. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 1 5help parents to meet children’s needs. The argument that the use of this misunderstanding and rejection. To sayAnd for this reason it is not axiomatic relative poverty measure may mislead that ‘relative child poverty levels’ arethat falling household income must the public because it inevitably carries higher risks no such misunderstanding;always mean rising levels of child with it a suggestion of ‘absolute there is nothing either misleading ordeprivation. The governments that are poverty’ is a genuine concern. But this meaningless about the statement that amost successful in protecting children is a problem not so much in the greater proportion of children arefrom poverty are likely to be those concept as in its communication. It allowed to fall significantly below thethat strive to reduce the number of can and should be addressed by norms of their societies in the Unitedlow-income households and help to sticking strictly to the term ‘relativeprovide essential goods, services and States than in the Czech Republic. child poverty’ when that is what isopportunities for children growing up meant. To say that ‘child poverty levels’ When presented for what it is – anin such households. This strategy are higher in the United States than in approximate measure not of absolutemakes it possible to offer a significant the Czech Republic is to invite public poverty but of falling so far behind thedegree of protection to children evenin times of economic crisis. And it alsoillustrates the usefulness of deployingboth a relative income measure and adirect measurement of deprivation inthe struggle to monitor and mitigate Box 3 Do children have incomes?the impact of economic forces on thelives of children.How should it be done?How, then, is child poverty bestmeasured, monitored, and compared?In previous Report Cards, some basic Most poverty lines are based on household incomes. But to calculateprinciples for the cross-national how many individuals live below the poverty line, household incomesmonitoring of child poverty have been must be converted to equivalent individual incomes (includingproposed. They are summarized and ‘incomes’ for children).updated here. This cannot be done by simply dividing household income by the number of people in the household. It may not be true that ‘two can1. ontinue to monitor relative C live as cheaply as one’, but the amount required to maintain a given child poverty based on national standard of living does not rise in direct proportion to the number of median incomes people in the home. The cost of heating, or a television or an InternetMedian income is “a strong indicator of connection, for example, does not double if there are four peoplewhat is considered normal in contemporary rather than two. Many such economies of scale – including being ablesociety.”x It should therefore continue to buy food or cleaning materials in bigger quantities – are available toto be used as a basis for identifying larger households.those at risk of social exclusion (see Unfortunately there is no scientific way of converting household incomeBoxes 4 and 6). into individual incomes. Rough and ready methods must therefore beMost countries have data on incomes, used, of which the most common is the ‘modified OECD equivalenceand these data can be used both to scale’ by which the first adult in each household is counted as 1.0, thecompare countries and to monitor second adult as 0.5, and each child under the age of 14 as 0.3. The totalchanges over time. Tracking the then becomes the number of ‘equivalent individuals’ by which householdincomes of those at the bottom end income must be divided. For example, a household with an income ofof the distribution in relation to the $46,000 for two adults, one 15-year-old, and one pre-school child wouldincomes of those at the median shows be counted as having the equivalent of 2.3 individuals and theirhow the benefits of economic ‘equivalized’ individual incomes would be $20,000. It is this figure that isprogress or the pain of economic used to establish the median income for the nation as a whole (the pointrecession are being distributed. It is at which exactly half have more and half have less – see Box 4: The median is the message). The relative poverty line is then drawn at anot a measure of overall inequality in certain percentage of that median. In the European Union, the line isthe society; it is a measure of how the drawn at 60% of equivalized median income.poorest are faring in relation to thosein the middle. The number of children estimated to be living in poverty is then calculated as the number of individual children living in households in which the equivalized income is below this line.
  • 18. 1 6 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0normal standard of living in the society to define and defend the simultaneous advanced economies in the form ofas to be excluded from the advantages use of the relative child poverty rate.xi a ‘poverty gap’ league table.and opportunities that the majority The special module on child Ideally, the monitoring of childtake for granted – the idea of relative deprivation, included as a one-off poverty would include its timing andchild poverty does make intuitive sense. experiment in the latest round of duration as well as its breadth and2. Measure deprivation directly EU-SILC, should therefore be depth. The earlier the privation andChild poverty also needs to be developed into a regular and the longer its duration, the greater themonitored by direct measurement of permanent feature of future surveys. potential impact on the child. This isdeprivation. The proportion of children true both because of the inherent 3. Measure depth and durationwho lack an adequate diet, or a quiet vulnerability of the earliest years ofplace to do homework, or suitable As already noted, it is also important life and because the longer a familybooks and an Internet connection, is to measure how far below the poverty stays poor the harder it may becomethe kind of measure that allows actual line the poor are being allowed to fall. to maintain essential expendituresliving standards to be compared across For this purpose, the median income (as savings and assets run down, fornations. It makes immediate sense to a of those below the poverty line, as a example, or as borrowing and otherwide public and contributes towards a percentage of the poverty line itself, is sources of help reach their limits).more rounded understanding of child a useful measure. Figure 7 haspoverty. And in so doing, it also helps presented this calculation for 35 In other words, child poverty should Box 4 The median is the message The words average and median can still cause The median household income is the income of the confusion in public discourse and even in policy-making. household in the middle of the income scale – the point The difference between the two is illustrated in the at which half of the households have more and half have diagram below. less. In this example, the median income is $40,000 (the income of house No. 8). Imagine a street with a single row of houses numbered 1 to 15. The household with the lowest income in the As the example shows, there can be significant street lives at number 1, the second poorest household differences between the average and the median. lives at number 2, and so on up to the richest household The two also respond to change in different ways. in number 15. Imagine, for example, that the two richest people in the The average household income is calculated by street, living in houses Nos. 14 and 15, were to move dividing the total income of the street by the total out and be replaced by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. In number of households. In the example given here, this this event, the average household income of the street comes to $60,000. would rise to several billion dollars. But the median Total income of all houses $900,000 Number of houses 15 Average household income $60,000 No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4 No. 5 No. 6 No. 7 No. 8 No. 9 No. 10 No. 11 No. 12 No. 13 No. 14 No. 15 $10,000 $12,000 $14,000 $16,000 $27,000 $30,000 $35,000 $40,000 $50,000 $60,000 $70,000 $80,000 $100,000 $140,000 $216,000 7 houses with lower income Median household income $40,000 7 houses with higher income
  • 19. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 1 7be monitored in three dimensions – development are happening now. below 10%. Countries that had alreadyasking not only how many children fall achieved this were challenged to All OECD countries have the capacitybelow national poverty lines but how emulate the Nordic countries by to track key economic indicators –far and for how long. reducing the rate still further – to 5% growth, inflation, unemployment, trade or less. Since that time, relative child4. aintain a close monitoring M balances – on a quarterly basis. It is poverty rates have risen in almost system therefore unacceptable that basic every OECD country* (an increaseMost governments of economically information on what is happening to that does not as yet reflect the impactadvanced countries are committed in children’s lives should be so out of of the post-2008 economic downturn).principle to the monitoring of child date. Key data on basic aspects of child As Figure 1b shows, only Iceland nowpoverty and social exclusion. But it poverty and child well-being should achieves a relative child poverty rate ofmust be said that collecting and making be made available not every four years less than 5%, though Finland remainsavailable the necessary data every few but every year. close at 5.3%. The latest nationallyyears is not monitoring. It cannot 5. et time-bound targets and S available data suggest that Iceland, too,adequately inform policy or alert build support has allowed its relative child povertygovernments, the media, the public, the rate to drift above the 5% mark.children’s organizations, or the academic Report Card 6 (2005) recommendedcommunity to the problems being faced that all OECD countries should aim This upward trend in relative childby children whose years of growth and to reduce relative child poverty rates to poverty rates over recent years is inincome would stay the same: the middle house in the Illustrating the normalincome distribution would still be No. 8, and its income This distinction between average and median canwould still be $40,000. sometimes be critical. For example, the argument overFor the same reason, it is quite possible to increase the whether pay is generally higher in the public or privateincomes of all the houses with incomes above the sector may well depend on whether the average or themedian (Nos. 9 to 15) without affecting the median median is used when making the comparison. If theincome of the street as a whole. average is chosen, then pay in the private sector may well be higher – because the average can beIt is sometimes said that relative poverty, defined as the substantially increased by a small number of peoplepercentage of households below a certain percentage of with very high earnings (the equivalent of Gates andmedian income, can never be abolished because the Buffet moving into the street). If the median is selected,target is always moving. As incomes rise, the poverty on the other hand, then pay in the public sector may beline also rises, and so ‘the poor will always be with us’. higher – because the median level of pay in the privateBut this is not the case. In the above example, those sector is not increased by the incomes of those at theliving in houses 1, 2, 3 and 4 are below the poverty line very top of the income distribution.because their household incomes are below 50% of the Many economists now argue that it is the median,median for the street as a whole. But if the incomes of rather than average, that should be used to illustratethose households were to rise to $20,000 then there what is normal in a given society. Nobel prize-winningwould be no houses with incomes below 50% of economist Joseph Stiglitz, for example, points out thatmedian. Relative poverty would have been abolished. in the United States, “median and average behaveAnd the median itself would not have changed. differently…real median household income has actually dipped since 2000. But G.D.P per capita has gone up.”1 . 1 uoted in ‘The Rise and Fall of the G.D.P by Jon Gertner, New York Times, Q .’ 13 May 2010.* he relative child poverty rates published in Report Card 6 are not strictly comparable with the rates given in Report Card 10 (See Figure 1b and T Box 3: Do children have incomes?)
  • 20. 1 8 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0large part the result of global economic Fig. 8 Relative child poverty rates before taxes and transfers (market income) and aftertrends. But that does not mean that it is taxes and transfers (disposable income)inevitable. It is within the power of before taxes and transfers after taxes and transfersevery government in the OECD to setrealistic targets for reducing relative Irelandchild poverty and to put in place the Hungarypolicies and the monitoring systemsrequired to meet those targets.xii Figure United Kingdom1b shows that a realistic target for the Finlandcountries with relative child poverty Australiarates below 10% would be to renewthe struggle to reduce the rate to 5% or New Zealandlower. Similarly, the 12 countries with Austriarates between 10% and 15% should aim Czech Republicat lowering relative child poverty below10%. The 8 countries currently with Norwayrates of 15% to 25% have the capacity Franceto bring the rate below the 15% level Sloveniaas an essential first step. GermanyAnnouncing such targets is of course not Luxembourgenough. It is now more than 20 years,for example, since the Government of IcelandCanada announced that it would “seek to Maltaeliminate child poverty by the year 2000.” CanadaYet Canada’s child poverty rate is highertoday than when that target was first Swedenannounced.xiii In part this is because Belgiumthe commitment was not backed by a Netherlandscompelling political and public consensusor by any firm agreement on how Denmarkchild poverty should be defined and Cyprusmonitored. Targets can only be a Slovakiafirst step. LithuaniaIn the past, the European Commission Estoniahas done much to help EU countriesto develop common indicators for Portugalthe measurement of child poverty and Bulgariato develop plans for its reduction (see PolandBox 7: The European Union: 2020vision). But since the economic crisis Romaniabegan, child poverty appears to have Latviaslipped down the Commission’s agenda. SwitzerlandChildren barely feature, for example, inthe Europe 2020 strategy. In particular, Spainthe Commission appears reluctant to USApublish cross-national data on falling Japangovernment expenditures for children Italyand families. Later this year (2012), theCommission is due to make proposals Greeceto member states on child well-being. 0 10 20 30 40 50Those proposals should include targets Child poverty ratefor specific reductions in child poverty (% of children living in households with income lower than 50% of the national median income)by the end of this decade. Notes: For each country and for both income definitions, poverty calculations are based on a poverty line set at 50% of the national median disposable income. Countries are ordered by decreasing percentage of poverty reduction achieved. ‘Taxes and transfers’ takes into account all income taxes paid by households and all benefits that directly affect household incomes (i.e. not including in-kind or near-cash benefits). Sources: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009, HILDA 2009, SLID 2009, SHP 2009 and PSID 2007. Results for New Zealand are from Perry (2011) and refer to 2010. Results for Japan are from Cabinet Office, Gender Equality Bureau (2011).
  • 21. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 1 9Fig. 8a Child poverty rates before taxes and transfers (market income) and after taxes and transfers, selected countries before taxes and transfers after taxes and transfers25 30 20 25.1 25.1 17.5 25 17.0 17.020 19.4 16.2 15.9 18.8 23.1 15 17.1 2015 15 10 13.3 8.510 7.3 7.4 8.8 10 5 5 5 0 0 0 France Spain USA Canada Austria Germany Czech Italy RepublicSources: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009, SLID 2009 and PSID 2007.6. Avoid unnecessary complexity There will always be children who fall inevitable result of global economic pressuresThe more complex the measure of behind the average, whether in material or demographic transitions.” says Jonathanchild poverty, the less useful it is likely circumstances or educational Bradshaw. “Governments can and do taketo be. achievement. The critical question is steps that are remarkably successful in ‘how far behind?’ Is there a point counteracting child poverty.”xiv7. easure well-being broadly M beyond which ‘falling behind’ is notChild poverty is about more than It would therefore also be useful to unavoidable but unacceptable? This wasincome or the lack of items on a given have some measure of how successful. the issue examined in Report Card 9list. Children can be poor in love and (2010), which offered a practical guide The principal league tables of childattention, in parental time and skills, in by looking at the gaps – whether in poverty with which this report beganrelationships and community, in public material well-being, or in health or in provide one overview of the record ofservices and environmental quality. It is educational achievement – between the different governments in helpingtherefore also necessary to continue to children at the bottom and the families to protect children from thedevelop ways of monitoring child children at the median point in each sharpest edges of poverty. But thewell-being in the round. country. If, for example, the gap in available data also allow more specific educational achievement is significantly comparisons to be made.It was for this reason that Report Card 7 wider in country A than in country B,(2007) developed an initial measure of Figure 8 presents one such comparison. then this suggests that young people inoverall child well-being for OECD Drawing on data from 35 advanced country A are falling further behindcountries. Bringing together a total of economies, it shows what the relative than is necessary. Put positively, the40 indicators for which internationally child poverty rate would be if varying child disparity records ofcomparable data were available, the governments did not intervene with countries at similar levels of economicreport compared child well-being across taxes and transfers (light blue bar). It development offer a real-world21 OECD countries under the then compares this with the actual measure of the scope for improvement.headings of material well-being, health relative child poverty rate after all taxesand safety, education, peer and family are deducted and benefits paid (bluerelationships, risk behaviours, and young Assessing government bar). The difference may be seen as onepeople’s own subjective sense of well- performance measure of the efforts and effectivenessbeing. This experiment will be refined The extent and depth of child of different governments in reducingand repeated with new data in the next deprivation and relative child poverty relative child poverty.issue in this series (Report Card 11). in different countries is the result of a complex interaction between cultural Such a presentation is of course biased8. Focus on disparity and historical factors, demographic in favour of those countries with highIn addition to monitoring average trends, labour market conditions, and initial rates of relative child povertylevels of child well-being, it is also global economic forces. But (the higher the starting level, theimportant to focus specifically on the government policies and expenditures greater the scope for reduction).children left behind. are also critical. “Child poverty is not an Nonetheless, it furnishes some striking
  • 22. 2 0 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 Box 5 Invisible children Both measures of child poverty used in this report are At the mid-point of the ‘Decade’, a report from the based on household surveys or household income data. Open Society Foundations concluded that, “The lack of But some of the children and young people most at risk data about Roma communities remains the biggest of poverty do not live in households; they live in obstacle to constructing any thorough assessment of institutions, in childrens homes, in temporary how governments are meeting their Decade accommodations, in hostels or hospitals, in prisons, in commitments.” 1 houses for refugees or asylum seekers, in mobile The Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain, for homes, or on the streets. It is also possible that some of example, have no data to track even such basic the most at-risk children may be not represented in indicators as infant mortality rates and primary school household surveys because they live in remote areas or completion rates for Roma children. “Without in families and communities whose presence may be comprehensive data to evaluate government efforts and illegal and unregistered. guide policies,” says the report, “the situation…is likely All of these ‘non-mainstream’ groups are likely to be to remain dire.” 2 statistically invisible. A notable example are the 4.5 million Roma children 1 cDonald, M. and K. Negrin (2010). ‘No Data – No Progress: Country M who live in the European Union. findings, data collection in countries participating in the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015’, Open Society Foundations, Budapest. Available at: In 2005, 12 governments (6 of them members of the EU) committed to a ‘Decade of Roma Inclusion’. 2 Ibid. Box 6 Relative agreement The idea of defining poverty in a relative rather than an place and time to time. In America as our standard of absolute sense is not new. living rises, so does our idea of what is substandard.” 5 In the 18th century, Adam Smith famously argued that By the early 1960s, sociologists and economists like poverty is the inability to afford, “not only the Victor Fuchs in the United States and Peter Townsend commodities which are indispensably necessary for the in the United Kingdom were arguing that governments support of life, but whatever the custom of the country should recognise the essentially relative nature of renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the poverty by setting national poverty lines at a fixed lowest order, to be without.”1 A century later, and from percentage of national median income (see Box 9: a different ideological perspective, Karl Marx found The poverty line: a short history). himself in agreement, “Our needs and enjoyments Today, the most commonly used poverty definition in spring from society; we measure them, therefore by the developed world is a definition of relative poverty, society and not by the objects of their satisfaction. and most OECD countries now calculate their headline Because they are of a social nature, they are of a poverty rates by the percentage of the population relative nature.” 2 whose incomes fall below 50% or 60% of national In 20th-century America, the liberal economist median income. J. K. Galbraith argued (1958) that, ”People are poverty- stricken when their income, even if adequate for survival, falls markedly behind that of their community.” 3 In the early 1960s, the conservative Rose Friedman, 1 dam Smith, An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, A also argued that the definition of poverty changes as Book 5, Chapter 2, 1776. general living standards change; people living at the 2 arl Marx, Selected Works, Volume 1, 268-269, Lawrence and Wishart, K London, 1946. end of the twentieth century who are labelled poor, she 3 albraith, J. K. (1958). The Affluent Society, Houghton Mifflin, Boston. G wrote, “will have a higher standard of living than many 4 riedman, R. D. (1965). ‘Poverty: Definition and Perspective’, American labelled not poor today.” 4 Republicans at the time F Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C. endorsed the relative idea: ”No objective definition of 5 inority [Republican] views, p. 46 in U.S. Congress, Report of the Joint M poverty exists,” said a Republican Congressional Economic Committee on the January 1964 Economic Report of the President with Minority and Additional Views, US Government Printing Office, response in 1964: “The definition varies from place to Washington, D.C., 1964.
  • 23. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 2 1comparisons. It shows for example, that Fig. 9 Child poverty rate and overall poverty rateCanada and the United States begin child poverty population povertywith the same level of relative childpoverty (25.1%) but that after taxes and Cyprusbenefits the relative child poverty rate Australiain Canada is almost halved whereas inthe United States it remains almost Finlandunchanged (see Figure 8a). GermanyWithin Western Europe, the table also Norwayshows up stark contrasts. Relative child Japanpoverty rates in France and Spain, forexample, begin at very similar levels Denmark(19.4% and 18.8%, respectively) but in SloveniaFrance the rate is more than halved by Icelandgovernment intervention whereas inSpain very little difference is made (see SwedenFigure 8a). Similarly, Austria, theCzech Republic, Germany and Italy Latviaall begin with relative child poverty Netherlandsrates of 16% to 18%; but after taxes Irelandand benefits the relative child povertyrate is brought down by half or more Austriain Austria, the Czech Republic and SwitzerlandGermany whereas in Italy there is Maltaalmost no reduction at all. EstoniaFalling how far? CanadaFigure 9 offers a different view of the United Kingdomrelative performance of governments. FranceIts premise is that, in a societycommitted to providing special Belgiumprotection for children, the child Lithuaniapoverty rate would be lower than theoverall poverty rate. But judged by a New Zealandrelative poverty measure, Figure 9 Czech Republicshows that in only 10 of 35 countries Bulgaria– Cyprus, Australia, Finland, Germany,Norway, Japan, Denmark, Slovenia, GreeceIceland and Sweden – is this the case. SpainFigure 7, showing the depth of relative United Stateschild poverty that is tolerated in Portugaldifferent countries, has already offeredanother kind of overview of Polandgovernment performance. Asking the Hungaryquestion: ‘On average, how far below Italythe poverty line are the poor beingallowed to fall?’ the graph again reveals Slovakiasignificant differences between Luxembourgcountries. In Finland the small Romaniaproportion of children (5%) in relativepoverty are living in households whose 0 5 10 15 20 25 30incomes fall, on average, about 11% Poverty ratebelow the relative poverty line. In theUnited States, the much greater Notes: For each country, poverty calculations are based on a poverty line set at 50% of the national median income. Countries are ordered by increasing gap between child poverty and overall population poverty (the first ten countriesproportion of children (23%) living are those where children are not relatively disadvantaged compared to the overall population in terms of poverty; at the bottom are the countries where poverty is particularly concentrated among children).below the relative poverty line are seen Sources: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009, HILDA 2009, SLID 2009, SHP 2009, PSID 2007. Results for New Zealand are from Perry (2011) and refer to 2010. Results for Japan are from Cabinet Office, Gender Equality Bureau (2011).
  • 24. 2 2 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 Box 7 The European Union: 2020 vision In June 2010, the Heads of State and Government of Jobless all 27 European Union countries called for 20 million A person is considered to be living in a jobless EU citizens to be lifted out of poverty and social household if no adult is in paid employment or if the exclusion by the year 2020. hours spent in paid employment amount to less than 20% of the potential number of hours in a normal How will this be measured? working week. By this definition, approximately 40 To be counted as living in ‘poverty or social exclusion’, million of the EU’s 250 million people are currently living an individual must be either ‘at risk of poverty’, or in jobless households. ‘deprived’, or ‘living in a jobless household’. In 2010, Of these three measures, the ‘at risk of poverty’ an estimated 80 million people in the EU countries fell indicator – the percentage below 60% of median into one or more of these three categories, defined national income – is considered to be the headline as follows: social exclusion indicator and is the most widely used At risk measure of relative poverty in the European Union. A person is considered ‘at risk of poverty’ if he or she A place for children is living in a household with an equivalized income (see Box 3: Do children have incomes?) below 60% of None of the original range of 18 indicators selected by the national median. the European Commission for the purpose of monitoring poverty paid specific attention to the needs of children.1 Deprived But in 2008, a start was made towards monitoring child poverty. After consultations, a set of indicators specific A person is considered ‘deprived’ if he or she is unable to the lives of children was included as a special module to meet four or more of the following nine criteria in the 2009 round of the European Union Statistics on (note: both the list of essential items, and the threshold Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). It is the results used, are different from the child-specific deprivation of this survey that have been drawn on in order to measure used in this Report Card): construct the 14-item child deprivation index presented σσ can afford to face unexpected expenses in this Report Card (Figure 1a). σσ can afford one week holiday away from home each year ‘Secondary data’ and special modules are included in each survey on a four-yearly rotating basis; ‘primary σσ can pay for arrears of mortgage or rent, utility bills data’ are gathered annually. But as this report argues, or hire purchase instalments the availability of timely data on child poverty and σσ can afford a meal with meat, chicken or fish every deprivation is critical to protecting the growing minds second day and bodies of children. Data that is specific to children σσ can keep the home adequately warm should therefore find a permanent, annual place in the σσ can afford a washing machine EU-SILC survey – and European Union poverty reduction σσ can afford a colour TV targets for 2020 should be revised to include specific targets for reductions in child poverty. σσ can afford a telephone σσ can afford a car. By this definition, an estimated 40 million EU citizens 1 otten, G. and K. Roelen (2011). ‘Monitoring child well-being in the European N are currently deprived. Union: Measuring cumulative deprivation’, Innocenti Working Paper 2011-03, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
  • 25. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 2 3to fall, on average, almost 38% belowthat line. Children below the relativepoverty line in Japan, Latvia, Bulgaria, Box 8 The public viewDenmark, Spain and Romania are seento be at average income levels that arebelow the poverty line by 30% or more. The most common measure used for estimating and comparing relative poverty rates in the rich countries is the percentage of the populationFigure 7 also throws up some surprises. living in households where disposable income is below a certainSweden and Denmark are rightly percentage of the national median. The OECD uses a poverty line setproud of their traditionally low rates of at 50% of median income.child poverty, but both find themselvesin the bottom half of the league table These thresholds have been criticised for being arbitrary. Why not drawwhen judged by the depth of relative the line at 40% or at 60%, as in many individual OECD countries (seepoverty into which poor children are Figure 5).allowed to fall. The relative ‘poverty But there is evidence that ‘50% of median income’ corresponds quitegap’ for children is greater in Denmark closely to what the majority of people think of as the income levelthan in Sweden, greater in Sweden below which people are ‘in poverty’.than in the United Kingdom, greaterin the United Kingdom than in France, The public perceptionand greater in France than in Finland. In one of the most famous speeches ever made about poverty, for example, United States President Franklin Roosevelt declared, “I seeComparing the risks one third of the nation ill housed, ill clad, ill nourished.” There was noSo far these different ‘windows’ into explicit mention of relative poverty in this estimate. But when sociologist Donald Hernandez applied a ‘50% of median income’government performance have poverty line to contemporary census data he found that the percentageconcentrated on relative child poverty of the population living below this level was 32%.1based on median household incomes.But the newly available data on child A generation later in 1963, President Lyndon Johnson announced hisdeprivation also offer opportunities for War on Poverty’ and asked economist Mollie Orshansky to develop thecomparison. Specifically, it is possible first official US poverty line (see Box 10: The United States: re-drawingto look at each country’s track record the line). Again, the idea that poverty should be defined in relative termsin protecting specific categories of was not intended, and Orshansky drew the line at a fixed number ofchildren who are known to be at dollars. But Census Bureau data for 1963 show that the ‘Orshansky line’greater risk. For example: of $3000 for a family or $1500 for an individual corresponded to approximately 50% of median US income at the time.■■ children in households with ‘low work intensity’ (as measured by In 1974 Lee Rainwater, another leading figure in the history of poverty the employment record of adults in studies, brought together a range of public opinion surveys and family the household) budget studies to show that, at every point since the 1930s, the American public’s view of the income required to stay above the poverty line has■■ children whose parents have low remained close to 50% of national median income. The United States levels of education General Social Survey for 1993, for example, reported that, on average,■■ children living in single-parent the American public thought that a family of four would be below the families poverty line if its income fell below $17,658 (in 1993 dollars). This turns out to be 48% of the US median household income for that year.■■ children of migrant families. Across the Atlantic, the United Kingdom’s Joseph Rowntree FoundationFigures 10a, 10b, 10c, and 10d has in recent years asked focus groups drawn from different kinds oftherefore present league tables of a households to define a minimum acceptable standard of living – baseddifferent kind – ranking countries by on need not wants. Advised by experts in health and nutrition, thethe protection afforded to some of focus groups came up with a ‘Minimum Income Standard’ whichtheir most vulnerable children. translates into approximately 60% of today’s UK median income.Figure10a ranks countries by the It is sometimes argued that the public at large thinks of poverty in anprotection available to children who absolute sense and that the concept of relative poverty is properlylive in single-parent households. understood only by economists and social scientists. But it is clearNorway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland from these examples that the popular definition of poverty is in fact aand Denmark are seen to achieve the relative one.highest levels of protection, closelyfollowed by the United Kingdom and 1 ernandez, D. J. (1993). Americas Children: Resources from family, government, and the economy, H Russell Sage Foundation, New York.Ireland. In Belgium, the deprivation
  • 26. 2 4 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0Fig. 10a Deprivation rate for children living in Fig. 10b Deprivation rate for children living in familiessingle-parent families with low parental education 4.1 Norway 2.5 Finland 4.3 Sweden 3.9 Iceland 4.4 Iceland 5.9 Norway 6.8 Finland 6.5 Sweden 10.1 Denmark 9.9 Luxemburg 12.2 United Kingdom 11.7 Denmark 13.0 Ireland 12.0 Ireland 14.9 Netherlands 13.8 Netherlands 15.3 Spain 15.8 Malta 16.9 Austria 19.2 Austria 17.3 Slovenia 19.2 Spain 17.6 Italy 19.3 United Kingdom 20.0 Belgium 22.6 Cyprus 21.5 France 26.7 Belgium 22.3 Estonia 27.9 Italy 23.1 Slovakia 29.4 Estonia 23.4 Luxembourg 32.9 Slovenia 23.8 Germany 34.0 France 24.3 Greece 35.6 Germany 29.7 Czech Republic 37.9 Portugal 31.2 Malta 50.8 Greece 32.7 Lithuania 54.7 Lithuania 34.3 Cyprus 59.5 Czech Republic 42.6 Poland 61.0 Poland 46.5 Portugal 67.6 Latvia 47.3 Hungary 74.5 Hungary 50.6 Latvia 83.8 Slovakia 76.0 Bulgaria 89.6 Bulgaria 85.4 Romania 92.4 Romania0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Deprivation rate (%) Deprivation rate (%)Note: Data refer to children aged 1 to 16. Note: Data refer to children aged 1 to 16.Source: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009. Source: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009.Fig. 10c Deprivation rate for children living in jobless Fig. 10d Deprivation rate for children living in migrant familieshouseholds (no adult in paid employment) 11.8 Sweden 2.7 Sweden 13.3 United Kingdom 3.1 Ireland 14.6 Norway 3.4 Norway 17.9 Iceland 3.6 Iceland 19.4 Ireland 20.1 Netherlands 5.0 Luxembourg 23.2 Denmark 7.4 United Kingdom 26.2 Finland 7.8 Netherlands 29.3 Luxembourg 7.9 Denmark 33.5 Spain 10.1 Malta 34.3 Italy 11.8 Finland 38.1 Malta 40.4 Belgium 14.4 Cyprus 40.7 Austria 15.5 Slovenia 42.2 Germany 16.6 Estonia 43.6 Slovenia 16.7 Germany 45.6 France 17.9 Austria 46.8 Poland 18.8 Czech Republic 50.0 Czech Republic 51.0 Lithuania 19.4 Spain 54.1 Cyprus 19.6 Belgium 55.5 Estonia 20.5 France 60.8 Latvia 23.7 Italy 64.4 Hungary 28.9 Latvia 73.6 Portugal 31.5 Lithuania 78.8 Slovakia 85.2 Bulgaria 33.6 Portugal 95.8 Romania 42.2 Greece0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 Deprivation rate (%) Deprivation rate (%)Notes: Data refer to children aged 1 to 16. Greece has been omitted Notes: ‘Migrant families’ means that at least one parent is foreign-born. Estimatesfrom this table because of the small sample size for the relevant population. are based on the 2009 EU-SILC and may differ from estimates drawn from nationalSource: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009. census data or other surveys. Data refer to children aged 1 to 16. Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia have been omitted from this table because of the small sample size for the relevant population. Source: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009.
  • 27. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 2 5level among children in single-parent Figure 10c lists countries by the Because children of migrant familiesfamilies is approximately double that deprivation level for children who live may be undocumented and thereforeof Denmark. Levels in Luxembourg, in households with no employed adult. statistically invisible, and because theGermany and Greece are almost Unsurprisingly, unemployment proportion, composition anddouble that of the United Kingdom. increases the risk of child deprivation background of migrant families vary in all countries; but again the variation from nation to nation, this analysisFigure 10b shows the deprivation rate between countries is considerable. must be treated with care. But thefor children whose parents have a low Sweden, the United Kingdom and table again shows the same group oflevel of education. Again, Finland, Norway top the table with deprivation countries (with the addition ofIceland, Norway and Sweden have the rates of under 15% for children in Ireland) holding positions at or nearbest protection record, though in a ‘jobless households’ – as opposed to the top of the protection league. Indifferent rank order. And again, large rates around the 40% mark for such Sweden, Ireland, Norway and Iceland,differences emerge. For example, about wealthy countries as Belgium, Austria, fewer than 5% of children in migranta third of French children who are Germany and France. families are deprived. In France andliving in families with low parental Italy the proportion is more than 20%education are deprived, as opposed to Figure 10d compares deprivation (and in a further four countries moreconsiderably fewer than 10% in most levels for a fourth vulnerable group – than 25%).Nordic countries. children living in migrant families.Fig. 10e Child deprivation rates in at-risk groups Country Deprivation rate Deprivation rate Deprivation rate for Deprivation rate for Deprivation rate for children for children children living in families children living in for children living lacking 2 or more living in single with low parental jobless households in migrant families items parent families education (none, primary (no adult in paid and lower secondary) employment) Iceland 0.9 4.4 3.9 17.9 3.6 Sweden 1.3 4.3 6.5 11.8 2.7 Norway 1.9 4.1 5.9 14.6 3.4 Finland 2.5 6.8 2.5 26.2 11.8 Denmark 2.6 10.1 11.7 23.2 7.9 Netherlands 2.7 14.9 13.8 20.1 7.8 Luxembourg 4.4 23.4 9.9 29.3 5.0 Ireland 4.9 13.0 12.0 19.4 3.1 United Kingdom 5.5 12.2 19.3 13.3 7.4 Cyprus 7.0 34.3 22.6 54.1 14.4 Spain 8.1 15.3 19.2 33.5 19.4 Slovenia 8.3 17.3 32.9 43.6 15.5 Austria 8.7 16.9 19.2 40.7 17.9 Czech Republic 8.8 29.7 59.5 50.0 18.8 Germany 8.8 23.8 35.6 42.2 16.7 Malta 8.9 31.2 15.8 38.1 10.1 Belgium 9.1 20.0 26.7 40.4 19.6 France 10.1 21.5 34.0 45.6 20.5 Estonia 12.4 22.3 29.4 55.5 16.6 Italy 13.3 17.6 27.9 34.3 23.7 Greece 17.2 24.3 50.8 42.2 Slovakia 19.2 23.1 83.8 78.8 Lithuania 19.8 32.7 54.7 51.0 31.5 Poland 20.9 42.6 61.0 46.8 Portugal 27.4 46.5 37.9 73.6 33.6 Latvia 31.8 50.6 67.6 60.8 28.9 Hungary 31.9 47.3 74.5 64.4 Bulgaria 56.6 76.0 89.6 85.2 Romania 72.6 85.4 92.4 95.8Notes: Data refer to children aged 1 to 16. The shading indicates whether a country ranks in the top third (light blue),middle third (mid-blue), or bottom third (dark blue) for each of the four risk categories.Source: Calculations based on EU-SILC 2009.
  • 28. 2 6 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 Fig. 11 Spending on families and children Figure 10e brings these four cash transfers tax breaks towards families services deprivation tables together to provide an overview of the protection record France of different nations. It presents a United Kingdom remarkably consistent picture in Sweden which the same seven countries – Hungary Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium Ireland – feature in the top third of Luxembourg the table no matter which at-risk New Zealand category is chosen. Luxembourg and Norway Iceland the United Kingdom feature in the Netherlands top third of the table for three of the Finland four risk categories. Australia In addition to what this overview has Germany to say about the protection offered by Ireland individual countries to particular Austria groups of at-risk children, the table Czech Republic also makes a strong overall statement Slovakia Cyprus that being the child of a single parent, Slovenia or of a migrant family, or of parents Estonia who are unemployed or of low Romania educational level, does not have to Poland mean deprivation. The level of risk Spain incurred is not a function of chance or Switzerland necessity but of policy and priority. Italy Canada Portugal The level you pay for Japan Finally, it is possible to examine the Bulgaria commitment of governments to the United States protection of children by looking at Lithuania the overall level of resources they Latvia are prepared to devote to the task. Greece Figure 11 presents this information in Malta the form of a league table ranking 350.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 countries by the percentage of GDP Public spending on families in cash transfers, tax breaks and services (as % GDP) that each country spends on cash transfers, tax breaks and services for Source: Data for public spending are from the OECD Family Database, around 2007. children and families. France, the United Kingdom and Sweden head Fig. 11a Government spending on families and children compared to reductions the table, followed by Hungary, achieved in relative child poverty due to taxes and transfers Denmark and Belgium. Each of these spends twice as a much – as a Reductions achieved in relative child poverty rates 100 proportion of GDP – as countries 80 IE such as Spain, Switzerland, Italy, HU 60 AT AU FI NZ UK Canada, Portugal, Japan and Bulgaria. CZ NO FR SI MT CA DE NL IS LU BE DK SE At the bottom of the table are five 40 CY SK LT EE countries spending little more than BGPT 20 LV CH PL RO 1% of GDP on cash benefits, tax US JP IT ES breaks and services for children and 0 families – the United States, Lithuania, -20 GR Latvia, Greece and Malta. -40 Figure 11a compares this level of 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 spending with the reductions in Government spending on families (as % GDP) Note: For country abbreviations see page 35. Source: See Figures 11 and 8.
  • 29. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 2 7relative child poverty that different physical growth are placed at risk. �Butgovernments manage to achieve (see societies also pay a heavy price – inalso Figure 8). How the money is lower returns on educationalspent can be as important as how investments, in reduced skills andmuch is spent, but the chart productivity, in the increasednonetheless shows a strong relationship likelihood of unemployment andbetween resources expended and welfare dependence, in the higherresults achieved. In particular, spending costs of social protection and judicialon children and families is running at systems, and in the loss of socialwell below the OECD average in cohesion. In the medium term, theseGreece, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Spain, costs must be met in the hard currencySwitzerland, and the United States. of the billions of extra dollars spent inAnd in all of these countries the lack attempting to cope with the wideof priority for children in national range of problems associated with highbudgets shows through in the levels of child poverty. The economiccorrespondingly small reductions in argument, in anything but the shortestrelative child poverty that each term, is therefore heavily on the sideachieves. of preventing children from falling into poverty in the first place.Conclusion Even more important is the argumentThis report has set out the latest in principle. Childhood by its nature,internationally comparable data on and by its very vulnerability, demandschild poverty as measured by rates of of a civilized society that childrenchild deprivation and relative child should be the first to be protectedincome poverty. rather than the last to be considered. This principle of ‘first call’ for childrenThe two measures are profoundly holds good for governments anddifferent in concept. Both have nations as well as for the families whostrengths and weaknesses. Taken bear the primary responsibility fortogether, they offer two different but protection. And because children havecomplementary measures and offer the only one opportunity to grow and tobest currently available comparative develop normally, the commitment topicture of child poverty in the world’s protection must be upheld in goodwealthiest nations. times and in bad. It must be absolute,Both measures are also behind the not contingent.times, and the seriousness of this failing Nor can this principle of first call behas been exposed by the post-2008 side-stepped by the argument that theeconomic downturn. At this critical protection of children is an individualmoment for low-income families in so rather than a social responsibility. Nomany countries, very few have detailed one can seriously claim that it is theinformation on the impact the crisis is child’s fault if economies turn down orhaving on children’s lives. It may of if parents are unemployed or low-paid.course be argued that in times of crisis That is why the league tables showinggovernments have more to worry the different degrees of protectionabout than producing statistics. But provided to at-risk groups should bewithout up-to-date information there weighed by politicians, press andis little possibility of putting in place public. A society that fails to supportpolicies that use limited resources in parents in the task of protecting thecost-effective ways to protect children years of childhood is a society that isfrom the effects of poverty. failing its most vulnerable. It is also a society that is storing up intractableFailure to offer this protection brings social and economic problems for theheavy costs. The biggest price is paid years immediately ahead. by individual children whosesusceptible years of mental and
  • 30. 2 8 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 Box 9 The poverty line: a short history The earliest known attempts to draw an official poverty weekly minimum income for a family of two adults and line date from 19th-century Britain and were driven by six children. This sum, it was stressed, was only for the need to ensure that children from the poorest subsistence and allowed nothing for the ”cheering families were not deprived of schooling.1 luxuries which gladden life.” 5 The United Kingdom’s Elementary Education Act of 1870 At the turn of the 19th century the systematic study of sought to put all children aged 5 to 13 in school. But as poverty took a major stride forward with the work of parents were required to pay a small fee, the Act also Seebohm Rowntree, scion of the famous Quaker family empowered the members of local School Boards to of chocolate manufacturers. Published in 1901, waive payment “in the case of any child when they are of Rowntrees ‘poverty line’ (he was the first to use the the opinion that the parents of such a child is unable from phrase) claimed to be ”the first attempt to fix a poverty poverty to pay the same.” 2 The Act specifically stated that line on scientific lines.” Surveying living conditions this power was to be ”most cautiously and sparingly among 10,000 working class families in the city of York, used,” but it still left School Boards with a problem: he proposed a minimum income level to ensure ”No machinery that you could possibly invent,” said the “adequate nutrition and other essentials.” 6 chairman of the London School Board in 1887, ”would Rowntree proceeded to divide those judged ‘poor’ enable you to say what each parent is able to pay.” 3 (about 25%) into two groups. The first group he defined Nonetheless, local School Boards made their as living in ‘primary poverty’ because they simply did judgements as best they could and established what not have enough income to meet their basic needs. was in effect a ‘poverty line’ below which school fees Those in ‘secondary poverty’, on the other hand, were need not be paid. Where that line was drawn varied failing to meet their needs not because their incomes from city to city and was usually kept secret ”for fear were too low but because they spent money on non- that the Board would be cheated.” 4 essential items (beer and tobacco being judged particularly non-essential). Other problems faced by 19th-century School Boards still face social scientists today: should income be Such a distinction would not be sustainable today, but measured before or after housing costs? What should at the time the concept of ‘primary poverty’ represented be done about irregular or undeclared earnings? What a significant shift away from the 19th-century concept adjustments needed to be made for larger families? of poverty as a moral failing associated with ‘laziness’, (see Boxes 2 and 3). ‘fecklessness’, ‘shiftlessness’ and ‘drunkenness’. After Rowntree, poverty came to be seen more and more Booth and Barnett as the result of impersonal economic forces such as The School Boards’ struggles were the background to the low pay and unemployment in an increasingly work of the man generally credited with the invention of industrialized society. the poverty line – the Victorian philanthropist and glove- In his later work, Seebohm Rowntree moved closer to manufacturer Charles Booth. In his 1877 speech to the a relative concept of poverty. In his 1936 survey, for Royal Statistical Society, Booth presented the findings of example, a sufficient income encompassed the ability a survey on the incomes of Londons poor and suggested to buy some items not absolutely necessary for survival, that a line of poverty’, set at 18 to 21 shillings a week, including newspapers, books, a radio, tobacco, beer, would divide the people of London into those who live ‘in and a holiday. By the time of Rowntree’s last survey in comfort’ and those who live ‘in poverty’. 1951, it was widely believed that poverty in the At about the same time, the social reformer Henrietta United Kingdom was close to being defeated by the Barnett was attempting to calculate a minimum cost of post-war advance of the welfare state. But as absolute living using dietetic science’. Her clergyman husband poverty began to recede into history, the idea of Samuel Barnett drew on her calculations to propose a measuring relative poverty was struggling to be born.
  • 31. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 2 9Tomorrows necessities Studies of 1983 and 1990, for example, researchersThe idea that poverty is essentially a relative concept Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack introduced the ideaand should be measured as such began to gain ground of “socially perceived necessities” – arguing that at leastin the 1960s. half the population should agree that an item was so necessary that ”no one should be without”.10 MoreIn America, the health economist, Victor Fuchs, recently still, the United Kingdom’s 1999 Poverty andproposed that the poverty line be set at one half of the Social Exclusion Survey attempted to reflect socialmedian income. “Todays comforts and conveniences,” norms by weighting each item on the ‘deprivation list’he argued, “are yesterdays luxuries and tomorrows according to the proportion of the population alreadynecessities.” 7 This proposal has yet to find full owning the item.acceptance in the United States (see Box 10: The United In the present century, the European Union has playedStates: redrawing the line). a leading role in developing the concepts and statisticalIn the United Kingdom, the case for a relative poverty tools for measuring poverty and social exclusion. Threeline was already being advanced in the late 1950s by principal measures – relative poverty, deprivation, andPeter Townsend, Professor of Sociology at the London joblessness – have been chosen to lead the way inSchool of Economics and a co-founder of the Child monitoring social exclusion across the 27 EU countriesPoverty Action Group. In his 1200-page study Poverty in plus Iceland and Norway (see Box 7: The Europeanthe United Kingdom (1979), Townsend abandoned the Union: 2020 vision).fixed poverty standards of his predecessors in favour ofa relative definition that has been central to povertystudies and poverty measurement ever since:“Individuals, families and groups in the population canbe said to be in poverty when they lack the resources toobtain the types of diet, participate in the activities, andhave the living conditions and amenities which arecustomary, or are at least widely encouraged andapproved, in the societies in which they belong.” 8 1 illie, A. (1996). ‘The Origin of the Poverty Line’, Economic History Review, G XLIX, 4: 715-730.The influence of Townsend’s formulation was enormous, 2 Ibid.and is manifest for example in the definition of poverty 3 Ibid.adopted by the European Economic Community in 1984 4 Ibid.which states that the poor are: 5 Ibid.“persons, families and groups of persons whose 6 owntree, B. S. (2000, Centennial, ed.). Poverty: A Study in Town Life, The R Policy Press, Bristol.resources (material, cultural, and social) are so limited 7as to exclude them from the minimum acceptable way uchs, V. R. (1967). ‘Redefining Poverty and Redistributing Income’, The Public F Interest 8: 88–95. See also: Hernandez, D. J., N. A. Denton and S. E.of life in the Member State in which they live.” 9 Macartney (2007). ‘Child Poverty in the US: A new family budget approach with comparison to European countries’, in Wintersberger, H., L. Alanen, T. Olk and J. Qvortrup (eds). ‘Childhood, Generational Order and the Welfare State:Townsend also pioneered the use of non-monetary Exploring Childrens Social and Economic Welfare’, Volume 1, COST A19:indicators to measure poverty and deprivation. Drawing Childrens Welfare, University Press of Southern Denmark.up a list of items and opportunities that ‘no one should 8 ownsend, P (1979). Poverty in the United Kingdom: A survey of household T . resources and standards of living, Penguin Books, without’, he conducted surveys to find out what 9 ouncil of the European Communities (1984). 85/8/EEC: Council Decision of Cproportion of the population lacked such items. 19 December 1984 on specific Community action to combat poverty. 10 ack, J and S. Lansley (1985). Poor Britain, George Allen Unwin, London.The Townsend scale has been developed and refined M See also: Lansley, S. and J. Mack (2011). Review of Kristian Niemietz, A Newever since. For the United Kingdoms’s Breadline Understanding of Poverty, Institute of Economic Affairs.
  • 32. 3 0 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 Box 10 The United States: re-drawing the line The United States is one of the few OECD countries with New proposals an official poverty line – in fact 48 different poverty lines In 1995, the United States Congress invited the National for different sizes and kinds of households. Academy of Sciences (NAS) to address these problems. Developed as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s ’War The overall conclusion of the NAS panel was that, on Poverty’ in the early 1960s, the original US poverty ”the current measure needs to be revised: it no longer line was arrived at by assessing the income required to provides an accurate picture of the differences in the afford the cheapest of four ‘nutritionally adequate’ food extent of economic poverty among population groups plans1 and multiplying the result by three (following or geographic areas of the country, nor an accurate research in the mid-1950s which showed that the typical picture of trends over time.” 6 American household spent about one third of its income In making its proposals, the Academy stopped short of on food). This worked out at $3000 a year for families embracing a European-style relative poverty line based and $1500 for individuals. on a percentage of median national income. Instead, it Updated only for inflation, this is the measure that has proposed basing the new poverty line on a budget for officially defined poverty in America for the last 50 food, clothing, shelter, utilities, and ”a small additional years. But because it has been increased only with amount to allow for other needs”. The new measure was prices, not incomes, the material standard that it to be relative in the sense that the budget was to be represents has fallen further and further behind the based on observed spending in the society at large (and updated every three years), but it tracked only spending living standards of most Americans. In the 1960s, for on necessities rather than spending of all kinds. The new example, the poverty line was the equivalent of 50% of proposals therefore left the door open for those below national median income; by the end of the century it the poverty line to fall further and further behind the had fallen to about 30% of median income.2 The current normal standard of living in the United States. official US poverty line therefore reflects what was considered to be a minimally acceptable living standard Experiments over half a century ago. When NAS-style budgets were drawn up and calculated, New needs the dollar value of the resulting poverty line was seen to correspond to about 20% less than half of US median For more than two decades, social scientists in the income (in 1992). But this was not the whole story. United States have been urging that the official poverty line should be re-drawn. Most compellingly, revision is A radical change was also proposed in the way that needed to bring the poverty line closer to the realities of household incomes were calculated. First, all non-cash present day America where the average proportion of benefits – such as food stamps, school lunches, and family income spent on food is now approximately one housing and energy subsidies – were to be included. eighth rather than one third.3 Second, ‘non-discretionary expenses’ were also to be subtracted – including an allowance for child care and A new poverty line, it is argued, should also take into some medical costs and health insurance premiums. account not just new needs but also new benefits that Such changes, said the NAS panel, would provide a more governments have made available to those on low realistic assessment of disposable household income. incomes. At present, the process of assessing household Taken together, they moved the proposed new poverty incomes takes only cash benefits into account, ignoring line closer to 50% of median income (the exact figure the more than $200 billion a year disbursed by would depend on how the proposals were implemented). government to poorer households in the form of food stamps, tax credits and other in-kind benefits. In sum, Following the NAS report, the United States Census says Professor Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University, Bureau began tentative experiments with a new poverty “The official measure no longer corresponds to reality. It measure that incorporated some of the recommendations doesn’t get either side of the equation right – how much (though not the allowance for regional variations in the the poor have or how much they need.” 4 cost of living). Ideally, a revised national poverty line would also reflect Slow progress regional differences in the cost of living, especially Meanwhile, the official US poverty line remains unchanged. housing and health care. According to some estimates, for example, the poverty threshold would have to be In part, this can be put down to the fact that a revision raised by $3500 a year just to allow for the higher cost of along the lines of the NAS proposals would substantially urban living in a wealthy State like Connecticut.5 alter both the number and composition of those deemed
  • 33. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 3 1to be below the poverty line.7 This in turn would affect insurance, and good quality early childhood educationthe disbursement of billions of dollars in federal funds, and the eligibility rules for particular benefit The result of this experiment, when applied to Censusprogrammes, alter the pattern, level and funding for Bureau data for the end of the 1990s, was a US childfederal and state programmes, and impact on different poverty rate of approximately 34%. This compares withdemographic groups in different ways. Add to this the the UNICEF estimate for the same period of 21.9%fact that the official poverty line is the responsibility of the (for relative child poverty based on the percentageExecutive Office of the President and it is evident that any of children in households with below 50% of medianre-drawing of the line is going to be a high-profile issue income).subject to intense institutional and political pressures. This approach may overstate the availability of free orWhile the debate continues, the United States Census subsidized ‘good quality’ early childhood education andBureau has tentatively introduced a Supplemental care in many OECD countries. But the authors believePoverty Measure8 to be deployed, as an experiment, their approach can be justified and that it carries thealongside the official poverty line. important message that child poverty in the UnitedRunning old and new poverty lines side by side might States is even more out of line with the rest of thehelp to loosen the ideological knot at the heart of the developed world than was previously thought:debate. One of the objections to the NAS proposals is “A poverty measure going beyond the UNICEF approachthat they are to some extent based on observed to incorporate these costs shows much larger differencesspending in the society as a whole; they are therefore than indicated by the UNICEF measure. The UNICEFseen by some as a step towards a European-style relative poverty rates for six countries with near universalpoverty line. To conservatives in the United States, as maternal/parental leave, preschool and national healthelsewhere, the concept of ‘relative poverty’ is a Trojan insurance, range from 2.4% in Denmark to 10.2% inhorse which, once admitted within the walls, would pour Germany. The UNICEF measure for the US is at leastforth the warriors of more progressive taxation. double these rates at 21.9%, and the Basic BudgetIn the meantime, individual States and programmes Poverty Rate taking into account childcare/early educationhave begun to move forward on their own.9 New York and health care is three times greater…” 10Citys Office of Economic Opportunity, for example, hasalready begun to use NAS-style poverty measures.Comparisons with EuropeIn comparing child poverty rates with other developedcountries, even the new Supplemental Poverty Measure 1 rshansky, M. (1969). ‘How Poverty is Measured’, Monthly Labour Review, Owould almost certainly underestimate the level of relative Vol. 92 (2): 37-41.child poverty in the United States. This is because a 2 otten, G. and C. de Neubourg (2011). ‘Monitoring Absolute and Relative Nmajority of OECD countries provide free or subsidized Poverty: “Not Enough” is not the same as “Much Less”’, Review of Income and Wealth, Series 57 (2).early childhood care and education, free or subsidized 3 ouch, K. A. and M. A. Pirog (2010). ‘Poverty Measurement in the U.S., Chealth care (or health insurance), and significant Europe, and Developing Countries’, Journal of Policy Analysis andsubsidies for parental leave. In the United States, such Management, Vol. 29 (2): 217. 4services must usually be paid for from ‘disposable Bleak Portrait of Poverty is Off the Mark, Experts Say’, New York Times, ‘ 3 Nov, 2011.household income’. Like is not therefore being 5 Couch and Pirog (2010), op. cit. p. 219.compared with like. 6 itro, C. F. and Robert T. Michael (eds.) (1995). Measuring Poverty: C A new approach. National Academies Press, Washington DC.In 2007, Professor Donald Hernandez, with colleagues Available at Denton and Suzanne Macartney, made a proposal 7 Couch and Pirog (2010). op. cit. p. 219.that would allow a more accurate comparison to be 8 he Research Supplemental Poverty Measure, United States Census Bureau, Tmade between child poverty rates in the US and other November 2011. Available at: supplemental/research/Short_ResearchSPM2010.pdfdeveloped countries. Using the NAS recommendations 9 meeding, T. M. and J. Waldfogel (2010). ‘Fighting Poverty: Attentive policy Sas a guideline, and drawing on research by Washington’s can make a huge difference’, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management,Economic Policy Institute, the new proposals first Vol. 29 (2): 405.calculate the income needed for ‘Basic Budget Poverty’. 10 ernandez, D. J., N. A. Denton and S. E. Macartney (2007). ‘Child Poverty H in the US: A new family budget approach with comparison to EuropeanMore radically, the proposal then calculates real countries’, in Wintersberger, H., L. Alanen, T. Olk and J. Qvortrup (eds).disposable household incomes by subtracting ‘Childhood, Generational Order and the Welfare State: Exploring Childrens Social and Economic Welfare’, Volume 1, COST A19: Childrens Welfare,non-discretionary costs such as transport to work, health University Press of Southern Denmark.
  • 34. 3 2 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 Data for Report Card 10: the surveys The statistical work for Innocenti Report Card 10 is based A comprehensive review of EU-SILC can be found in: on the direct elaboration of household survey microdata Atkinson, Anthony B. and Eric Marlier (eds) (2010), for 33 economically advanced countries. For two Income and Living Conditions in Europe, Eurostat, countries, Japan and New Zealand, the statistical results European Commission, Publications Office of the have been derived from national studies shared by their European Union, Luxembourg. respective authors with the UNICEF research team. Most of the surveys elaborated for this study were Data on child income poverty have been elaborated conducted in 2009. from the following national representative surveys: European Union Australia European Union Statistics on Income and Living Household Income and Living Dynamics in Australia Conditions (EU-SILC) (HILDA), 2008 – 2009. The 2009 round of EU-SILC is the main source of data HILDA is a household panel study which collects used for Report Card 10, providing data on deprivation information on income, employment, family life and and relative poverty among children for the 29 countries household composition on an annual basis. included in this study (all 27 European Union countries, This survey is conducted annually by the Melbourne plus Iceland and Norway). Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research EU-SILC surveys are conducted annually and collect (University of Melbourne) and is funded by the Australian comparable data on income, poverty, social exclusion and Government through the Department of Families, living conditions from representative samples of private Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. households and their current members living in the The income data extracted from this survey refer to the territory of the countries at the time of the data collection. fiscal year July 2008 – June 2009. EU-SILC is the main source of data to monitor the More information can be found at: indicators by which the European Union has agreed to measure its progress toward reducing social exclusion. The surveys are administrated nationally, with some Canada flexibility in the implementation (the national surveys are Survey on Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID), 2009. based on a common framework which defines target SLID is a panel survey run by Statistics Canada. It is the variables, and on common guidelines and concepts to country’s primary source for income data, and includes maximize international comparability). information on family situation, education and The survey is made up of a core component (same demographic background. The survey is representative content every year) and special modules (which change of all individuals living in Canada, excluding residents of annually). The 2009 EU-SILC survey included the special the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as module on ’Material Deprivation’, including 36 variables. well as residents of institutions and persons living on Many of these new variables were about ‘child material Indian reserves. Overall, these exclusions amount to less deprivation’ and covered ‘basic needs’, ‘educational or than 3% of Canada’s population. leisure needs’ and ‘medical needs’. Many of the Report Card 10 uses data from the 2009 round of the variables included in the 2009 special module have been SLID, with income poverty data referring to the year 2008. used for the analysis of child material deprivation in this Report Card. More information can be found at: The EU-SILC data on child material deprivation refer to the year 2009, while those on child poverty refer to 2008 (except for the United Kingdom, which refer to 2009). More information can be found at: microdata/eu_silc
  • 35. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 3 3Switzerland Additional sources of information on income povertySwiss Household Panel (SHP), 2009. Japan, 2010.SHP is a yearly panel study, run by FORS, the Swiss The statistics on child income poverty for Japan haveFoundation for Research in Social Sciences, based at the been taken from:University of Lausanne. Cabinet Office, Gender Equality Bureau, Japan (2011),The study follows a random sample of households in ‘The State of Poverty and Gender Gap’, paper presentedSwitzerland over time with the aim of observing social at the Working Group on “Women and the Economy”,change, focusing in particular on changing living Specialist Committee on Basic Issues and Gender Impactconditions. Assessment and Evaluation under the Council for GenderReport Card 10 uses data from the 2009 round of the Equality, Tokyo 20 December 2011.SHP with income poverty data referring to the year 2008. , The data presented in this paper have been elaboratedMore information can be found at: from the 2010 Comprehensive Survey of Conditions of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The data on income refer to the year 2010.United States More information can be found at:Panel Study on Income Dynamics (PSID), 2007. db-hss/cslc-index.htmlPSID is a national representative panel study on socio-economic status and health across generations in the New Zealand, 2009 – 2010.United States. The PSID, started in 1968, is directed bythe Institute of Social Research at the University of The statistics on child income poverty for New ZealandMichigan and collects data on income, wealth, have been taken from:expenditure, demographics, education, child Perry, Bryan (2011),‘Household Incomes in New Zealand:development and other topics. Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 toThe PSID data used for Report Card 10 are those from 2010’, Ministry of Social Development, Wellington,the 2007 survey, with income poverty data referring to July 2011.the year 2006. This paper elaborates microdata from the 2009-2010More information can be found at: Household Economic Survey of Statistics New Income data from this survey refer to 2010. More information can be found at:For the four surveys described above, HILDA, SLID, SHP PSID, harmonized household income data have our-surveys/hes-resource.aspxbeen obtained from the Cross National Equivalent File(CNEF), a project managed by Cornell University. Thesedata complemented those extracted directly from theoriginal survey.More information can be found
  • 36. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0
  • 37. I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0 3 5R E F E R E N C E S Country abbreviationsi viii UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre Guio, A-C. (2010). ’What Can Be Australia AU(2010). ‘The Children Left Behind: Learned from Deprivation Indicators inA league table of inequality in child Europe’, Eurostat Methodologies and Austria ATwell-being in the world’s rich countries’, Working Papers, European Commission,Innocenti Report Card 9, UNICEF IRC, Luxembourg. Belgium BEFlorence. Bulgaria ITY_OFFPUB/KS-RA-09-007/EN/ii KS-RA-09-007-EN.PDF Canada CA Bradshaw, J., Y. Chzhen, C. de ixNeubourg, G. Main, B. Martorano, and Nolan and Whelan (2010) op. cit, pp. Czech Republic CZL. Menchini (2012). ‘Relative Income 319-321. Cyprus CYPoverty among Children in Rich x Lansley, S. and J. Mack (2011).Countries’, Innocenti Working Paper Denmark DK Review of Kristian Niemietz, ’A New2012-01, UNICEF Innocenti Research Understanding of Poverty’, Institute of Estonia EECentre, Florence. Economic Finland FI Review%20Nimietz%2020%20May%20iii France FR Bradshaw, J. and E. Mayhew (2010). sljm-final.pdf’Understanding Extreme Poverty in the xi Germany DE Bradshaw et al. (2012). op. cit.European Union’, European Journal of xii Greece GRHomelessness, Vol.4: 174. Smeeding, T. M. and J. Waldfogeliv (2010). ’Fighting poverty: Attentive policy Hungary HU Notten, G. and C. de Neubourg (2011). can make a huge difference’, Journal’Monitoring Absolute and Relative Iceland IS of Policy Analysis and Management,Poverty: “Not Enough” is not the same vol. 29 (2): 401-407. Ireland IEas “Much Less”’, Review of Income and xiiiWealth, Series 57 (2): 260-265. Pasma, C. (2010). ’Bearing the Brunt: Italy ITv How the 2008-2009 Recession Created Bradshaw et al. (2012). op. cit. Poverty for Canadian Families’, Citizens Japan JPvi Nolan, B. and C. T. Whelan (2010). for Public Justice, Ottawa. Latvia LV’Using Non-Monetary Deprivation to Analyse Poverty and Social xiv Lithuania LT Bradshaw, J. (2000). ’Poor ChildrenExclusion: Lessons from Europe?’ in Rich Countries’, Address to Hawke’s Luxembourg LUJournal of Policy Analysis and Bay Medical Research Foundation,Management, vol. 29 (2): 305-325. Malta MT New Zealand.vii Fusco, A., A-C. Guio and E. Marlier Netherlands NL(2010). ‘Income Poverty and Deprivationin European Countries’, Eurostat New Zealand NZMethodologies and Working Papers, Norway NOEuropean Commission, Poland PLOFFPUB/KS-RA-10-030/EN/KS-RA-10-030-EN.PDF Portugal PT Romania RO Slovakia SK Slovenia SI Spain ES Sweden SE Switzerland CH United Kingdom UK United States US
  • 38. 3 6 I n n o c e n t i R e p o r t C a r d 1 0A cknowledgementsThe Report Card 10 project was UNICEF advisors Administrative support at the UNICEFcoordinated by the UNICEF Office of Gordon Alexander (Director, UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti was providedResearch Innocenti, and assisted by Office of Research Innocenti) by Cinzia Iusco Bruschi and Laura Meucci.a panel of advisors and reviewers.Research was completed at the end James Elder (Chief, Communication Unit,of December 2011. UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti)The full text and the background papers to External advisorsthis report can be downloaded from the Ferran Casas (University of Girona)UNICEF Innocenti Research Centrewebsite at Kenneth Couch (University of Connecticut) Donald Hernandez (City University ofResearch and data analysis New York)Peter Adamson (independent consultantto UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti) Gareth Jones (Consultant, UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti)Jonathan Bradshaw (University of York) Robert Joyce (Institute for Fiscal Studies,Yekaterina Chzhen (University of Oxford) London)Gill Main (University of York) Geranda Notten (University of Ottawa)Bruno Martorano (UNICEF Office of Dominic Richardson (Organisation forResearch Innocenti) Economic Co-operation andLeonardo Menchini (Chief, Social Policy, Development)Monitoring and Evaluation, UNICEF Egypt, Keetie Roelen (Institute of Developmentformerly UNICEF Office of Research Studies, Brighton)Innocenti) Kitty Stewart (The London School ofChris de Neubourg (Chief, Social and Economics and Political Science)Economic Policy Unit, UNICEF Office ofResearch Innocenti)Support in background researchBethelhem Ketsela Moulat, Ilze Plavgoand Jan Oliver Suer (UNICEF Office ofResearch Innocenti)Support on individual country datasources and statisticsAya Abe (National Institute of Populationand Social Security Research, Japan),who kindly provided a paper with thestatistical results on child income povertyfor Japan.Bryan Perry (Ministry of SocialDevelopment, New Zealand), who kindlyprovided a paper with the statisticalresults on child income poverty forNew Zealand.UNICEF National Committees forAustralia, Canada and New Zealandsupported the UNICEF Office of ResearchInnocenti in gaining access to the relevantdata sources for their respectivecountries.
  • 39. Previous issues in this series:Innocenti Report Card 1A league table of child poverty in rich nationsInnocenti Report Card 2A league table of child deaths by injury in rich nationsInnocenti Report Card 3A league table of teenage births in rich nationsInnocenti Report Card 4A league table of educational disadvantage in rich nationsInnocenti Report Card 5A league table of child maltreatment deaths in rich nationsInnocenti Report Card 6Child poverty in rich countries 2005Innocenti Report Card 7Child poverty in perspective: An overview of childwell-being in rich countriesInnocenti Report Card 8The child care transition: A league table of early childhoodeducation and care in economically advanced countriesInnocenti Report Card 9The children left behind: A league table of inequality inchild well-being in the world’s rich countriesGraphics: MCC Design, UK ( by: ABC Tipografia, Sesto Fiorentino, Florence, Italy
  • 40. Innocenti Report Card 10, 2012Measuring Child PovertyNew league tables of child povertyin the world’s rich countriesUNICEF Innocenti Research CentrePiazza SS. Annunziata, 1250122 Florence, ItalyTel: (+39) 055 20 330Fax: (+39) 055 2033 220florence@unicef.orgwww.unicef-irc.orgISSN 1605-7317© The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)May 2012ISBN: 978-88-8912-965-4 Sales No. E.11.XX.2 USD 20.00 IRC stock number 654U