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Poor kids: trends in child poverty in Britain, 1968-96


  • Paul Gregg
  • Susan Harkness
  • Stephen Machin


According to Family Expenditure Survey (FES) data, child poverty (with a poverty line defined at half mean equivalised household income) has risen markedly in Britain in the last 30 years. By 1995-96, around one in three - or 4.3 million - children were living in poor households. This compares with child poverty rates of one in ten, corresponding to 1.4 million children, in 1968. The employment position of the household is seen to be important, with over half of poor children in 1995-96 living in households with no adults in work. If an absolute, rather than a relative, poverty line is utilised, child poverty remains stagnant since the late 1970s, following a period of rapid decline from 1968, despite considerable rises in average living standards. This reveals that the income position of households with children has been falling relative to that of childless households over time. Finally, looking at expenditure patterns and comparing their trends with income-based poverty measures tends to reinforce these findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Gregg & Susan Harkness & Stephen Machin, 1999. "Poor kids: trends in child poverty in Britain, 1968-96," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 20(2), pages 163-187, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:fistud:v:20:y:1999:i:2:p:163-187

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Machin, Stephen, 1996. "Wage Inequality in the UK," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 47-64, Spring.
    2. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1998. "Consumption Inequality and Income Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 603-640.
    3. Browning, Martin, 1992. "Children and Household Economic Behavior," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1434-1475, September.
    4. John Micklewright & Kitty Stewart, "undated". "Is Child Welfare Converging in the European Union?," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 42, McMaster University.
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    Cited by:

    1. Arnaud Chevalier & Colm Harmon & Vincent O’ Sullivan & Ian Walker, 2013. "The impact of parental income and education on the schooling of their children," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 2(1), pages 1-22, December.
    2. Jo Blanden, 2004. "Family Income and Educational Attainment: A Review of Approaches and Evidence for Britain," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(2), pages 245-263, Summer.
    3. Richard Dickens & Abigail McKnight, 2008. "The Impact of Policy Change on Job Retention and Advancement," CASE Papers case134, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
    4. Morelli, Carlo & Seaman, Paul, 2009. "Devolution & Entrenched Household Poverty: Is Scotland less mobile?," SIRE Discussion Papers 2009-06, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    5. Blanden, Jo & Alissa Goodman & Paul Gregg & Stephen Machin, 2002. "Changes in Intergenerational Mobility in Britain," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 31, Royal Economic Society.
    6. Abigail Mcknight & T. Tsang, 2013. "GINI Country Report: Growing Inequalities and their Impacts in the United Kingdom," GINI Country Reports united_kingdom, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
    7. Carlo Morelli & Paul Seaman, 2005. "Devolution and Inequality: A sorry tale of ineffectual government and failure to create a community of equals?," Dundee Discussion Papers in Economics 181, Economic Studies, University of Dundee.
    8. Paul Gregg & Susan Harkness & Sarah Smith, 2009. "Welfare Reform and Lone Parents in the UK," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(535), pages 38-65, February.
    9. Carlo J. Morelli & Paul T. Seaman, 2006. "Still Hungry for Success? Targeting the poor and the case of Free School Meals," Dundee Discussion Papers in Economics 189, Economic Studies, University of Dundee.
    10. Carlo Morelli & Paul Seaman, 2004. "Universal versus Targeted Benefits: The distributional effects of free school meals," Dundee Discussion Papers in Economics 173, Economic Studies, University of Dundee.
    11. Holly Sutherland & Christine Lietz & Horacio Levy, 2005. "Alternative Tax-benefit Strategies to Support Children in the European Union. Recent Reforms in Austria, Spain and the United Kingdom," Papers inwopa05/33, Innocenti Working Papers.
    12. repec:cep:sticas:/134 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Ozawa, Martha N. & Baek, Sun-Hee & Joo, Myungkook, 2009. "The impact of social transfers on children in female-headed households: A comparison between Korea and the United States," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 355-363, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior


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