Academic journal article Australian Journal of Labour Economics

Child Social Exclusion: An Updated Index from the 2006 Census

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Labour Economics

Child Social Exclusion: An Updated Index from the 2006 Census

Article excerpt


Much research about child poverty and disadvantage provides national estimates of child wellbeing, due to the ready availability of microdata at the national level. However, an increasing body of evidence suggests that there can be major differences in wellbeing between children living in different geographic areas. In addition, much recent debate has focussed on moving beyond income poverty to broader measures of social exclusion. This article describes the development of a composite index of child social exclusion risk for Australian small areas, using 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data, and building on earlier work based on 2001 Census data. Variables included in the index are based on characteristics of children's parents, families and households, and include data about parental partnership status, employment and volunteerism, family educational attainment and occupation, household income, housing, transport and internet connection. Results show that there are pronounced spatial differences in the risk of child social exclusion, with areas of high social exclusion risk common in Australia's rural and regional balance, and in clusters of outer areas in most of Australia's capital cities.

1. Introduction

There has been strong emphasis in recent policy and research in Europe on social exclusion (Klasen, 1998), and enormous recent policy interest in social inclusion in Australia since the election of the new Labor government. However, relatively few Australian studies have as yet adopted this broader definition of disadvantage to look specifically at children (see Saunders and Naidoo, 2008 for recent Australian work in this area) and, apart from our earlier work (Daly et al., 2007, 2008), none have analysed child social exclusion at a small area level.

The multidimensional nature of child disadvantage has been discussed by a number of authors in an Australian context, in relation to the causes and correlates of income poverty (see, for example, Bradbury, 2003), and the negative effects of child disadvantage throughout the lifecourse are widely acknowledged (Saunders, Naidoo and Griffiths, 2007). The need to incorporate wider dimensions of disadvantage has become increasingly accepted - and the concept of social exclusion has become one widely recognised framework for understanding, measuring and addressing poverty and disadvantage at this multidimensional level. In particular, recent work by the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) has used community surveys and focus groups to develop a more nuanced understanding of what poverty, deprivation and social exclusion mean for Australians - both those with low income and those from the wider community (Saunders et al., 2007) - and to develop a set of indicators related to these concepts. The SPRC survey results, based on adult responses about children, have also been used to develop nine indicators of social exclusion for Australian children.1 The authors estimate that one in six children live in households experiencing social exclusion, defined here as experiencing four or more of the nine indicators listed in the footnote below (Saunders and Naidoo, 2008).

There is a very substantial body of international literature relating to the definition and measurement of social exclusion and related concepts (reviewed in Daly, 2006 and also summarised in Hayes, Gray and Edwards, 2008). There is no single definition of social exclusion, but we are adopting here the following definition used by the British Social Exclusion Unit:

'Social exclusion is what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, poor health and family breakdown.' (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2004, p.2)

The earlier work on which the current study builds used nine variables from the 2001 Census to develop a small area indicator of child social exclusion (Daly et al. …

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