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Eradicating Child Poverty in Britain: Welfare Reform and Children Since 1997

  • Mike Brewer
  • Paul Gregg


In 1997 the new Labour government in the UK inherited a situation where nearly one in 5 children lived in a household where no adult worked and around one in 3 lived in relative poverty. Children had replaced pensioners as the poorest group in society. The incoming government set about an ambitious set of reforms designed to reduce poverty and worklessness amongst families with children. This policy reform agenda contained some features akin to the welfare reform process being undertaken in the US since 1996. But with one fundamental difference, that welfare payments to jobless families rose rapidly and there is no time restriction in access to these payments. This paper describes the key features of the welfare reform process and documents the reforms to welfare payments and in particular contrasts them with the US system. The results show that the reformed UK welfare support system, taxes and benefits, for children is more generous to low-income families with children but less for better off families. So the UK system is more progressive among families with children. The paper goes on to look at the emerging evidence of the impact of the UK policy reform process on poverty and welfare dependence.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK in its series The Centre for Market and Public Organisation with number 02/052.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bri:cmpowp:02/052
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  8. Gosling, Amanda & Machin, Stephen & Meghir, Costas, 2000. "The Changing Distribution of Male Wages in the U.K," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(4), pages 635-66, October.
  9. Mike Brewer, 2001. "Comparing in-work benefits and the reward to work for families with children in the US and the UK," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 22(1), pages 41-77, January.
  10. Blundell, Richard, 2000. "Work Incentives and 'In-Work' Benefit Reforms: A Review," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 27-44, Spring.
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  18. Mike Brewer, 2000. "Comparing in-work benefits and financial work incentives for low-income families in the US and the UK," IFS Working Papers W00/16, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  19. Gregg, Paul & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2000. "Mind the Gap, Please: The Changing Nature of Entry Jobs in Britain," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 67(268), pages 499-524, November.
  20. Proceedings from a workshop organised by HM Treasury and CASE, 1999. "Persistent Poverty and Lifetime Inequality: The evidence," CASE Reports casereport05, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
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  23. Gregg, Paul, 2001. "The Impact of Youth Unemployment on Adult Unemployment in the NCDS," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(475), pages F626-53, November.
  24. Johnson, Paul & Webb, Steven, 1993. "Explaining the Growth in UK Income Inequality: 1979-1988," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(417), pages 429-35, March.
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