Child Well-Being, Child Poverty and Child Policy in Modern Nations: What Do We Know?

Child Well-Being, Child Poverty and Child Policy in Modern Nations: What Do We Know?

Child Well-Being, Child Poverty and Child Policy in Modern Nations: What Do We Know?

Child Well-Being, Child Poverty and Child Policy in Modern Nations: What Do We Know?

Synopsis

This work presents some of the findings of social scientists on child poverty and the well-being of children. It includes a description of and an explanation for recent trends in industrialized countries, the effects of changes in labour market and social security policy, and the consequences of childhood poverty for children and society as a whole.

Excerpt

We have entered an era of rising inequalities. the Gini coefficient for market incomes has risen in just about all oecd countries. Only a handful of welfare states have managed to stem this tide via more redistribution – basically Scandinavia, together with France and the Netherlands. the new inegalitarian thrust is worrisome because it coincides with a sharp shift in the distribution of social risks across citizens’ lifecourse, from the old to the young and, most problematic of all, to families with children.

Postindustrial society seems to play havoc with Rowntree’s classical model of life cycle poverty, a model that depicted huge concentrations of poverty among older people (because of lack of work income) and among families with children (because they were very large). Older people are generally no longer at risk and, as we know, contemporary families with children are not exactly numerous. So why this novel appearance of child poverty in the advanced nations? Many point to the ominous threat of globalisation but, in reality, the causes are endogenous to our society. Families with children face growing risks in part because the new labour market is unkind to young workers and, in part, because families are less stable and often economically vulnerable. Increasingly, two earners are needed to ensure against poverty and want.

The great policy challenge we face is not simply that latter-day children are vulnerable to deprivation, but that the second-order consequences of poverty and need in childhood are ever more severe. As several chapters in this book show, economic hardship in childhood can have very troublesome ripple-effects throughout life, affecting school completion, earnings and career prospects later in life and, ultimately, well-being in retirement. Poverty and insecurity in childhood can overdetermine life chances. Research from the us shows that child poverty is associated with, perhaps, two years less education, with sharply lower wages as an adult and, worst of all, with a substantial likelihood of becoming a poor parent – thus reproducing the poverty syndrome from one generation to the next. Gregg and Machin’s chapter find similar, if less devastating, effects for Britain.

It is important, however, to remember that money is only one of several catalysts of problematic life chances. Research shows that family instability, unemployment or alcoholism among parents yield similarly negative . . .

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