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An international comparison of the impact of child benefits on poverty outcomes for single mothers


  • Wim Van Lancker
  • Joris Ghysels
  • Bea Cantillon


Single mothers are vulnerable to living in poverty in contemporary European societies, which translates into economic dependency and threatens womenÂ’s capacity to form autonomous households. Given their difficulties to engage in paid employment in a context of increasing dual earnership, the question how to safeguard the economic status of single mothers is a crucial one. In this article we address this issue by focusing on child benefits and exploring their impact on the poverty risk of single mothers in 15 European countries. In doing so, we combine two methodological traditions and devote specific attention to the design of child benefit systems in Europe which adds to the universality versus targeting-debate. We find that child benefits play a major role in complementing the household income of single mothers but that the poverty-reducing impact differs greatly between countries, depending on the generosity and the design of the benefit system. We also find that designing a single mother-friendly child benefit system does not necessarily come at a great cost. Our results demonstrate that a well-designed child benefit system has the potential to play a crucial role in strengthening womenÂ’s autonomy.

Suggested Citation

  • Wim Van Lancker & Joris Ghysels & Bea Cantillon, 2012. "An international comparison of the impact of child benefits on poverty outcomes for single mothers," Working Papers 1203, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  • Handle: RePEc:hdl:wpaper:1203

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    Cited by:

    1. Melvin Stephens, Jr. & Takashi Unayama, 2015. "Estimating the Impacts of Program Benefits: Using Instrumental Variables with Underreported and Imputed Data," NBER Working Papers 21248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Nicholas-James Clavet & Luca Tiberti & Marko Vladisavljevic & Jelena Zarkovic Rakic & Aleksandra Anic & Gorana Krstic & Sasa Randelovic, 2017. "Reduction of child poverty in Serbia: Improved cash-transfers or higher work incentives for parents?," Working Papers PMMA 2017-04, PEP-PMMA.
    3. Mechelen, N. (Natascha) van & Bradshaw, J. (Jonathan), 2012. "GINI DP 50: Child Poverty as a Government Priority: Child Benefit Packages for Working Families, 1992-2009," GINI Discussion Papers 50, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
    4. Melvin Stephens Jr & Takashi Unayama, 2015. "Child Benefit Payments and Household Wealth Accumulation," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 66(4), pages 447-465, December.
    5. repec:aia:ginidp:dp50 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    autonomy; child benefits; comparative; poverty; single mothers; universalism;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

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