Child Poverty: The United Kingdom Experience

On April 1, medical journal Academic Pediatrics published a special supplement examining child poverty in the US, where one in five children live below the federal poverty level (FPL) and nearly half of children are classified as poor or near poor.

The supplement brings together articles from paediatric researchers, child advocates, social scientists, economists, and public health experts. It forms part of a strategic plan to increase awareness and education about the long-term and widely felt impacts of poverty in childhood.
The supplement covers four main areas:
·         Child Poverty: An Attack on Our Nation’s Human Capital addresses how child poverty affects cognitive growth and negatively influences health outcomes, with an emphasis on the mechanisms that attack children early on and stay with them through adulthood.
·         Who Is Poor: The Definition and Measurement of Poverty focuses on what it means to be poor, examines the statistics and methodology used in classifying poverty, and looks at how issues of poverty extend even to children and families living above the federal poverty level.
·         International Child Poverty Levels and Interventions: A Comparison to the U.S. examines America’s place among the developed nations of the world and the effectiveness of programs and interventions used abroad to combat child poverty.
·         Child Poverty Interventions in the U.S.: Reducing Child Poverty and Ameliorating the Impact of Poverty on Child Health and Well-being looks at what the U.S. is currently doing to reduce child poverty and to lower its impact on adverse physical and mental health outcomes.
The section on international comparisons includes a review by Megan Curran and I on the impact of the UK child poverty target and the implications for the US. The article can be accessed in full here:
The abstract here:
The United States has long struggled with high levels of child poverty. In 2014, 2 of 5 (42.9%) of all American children lived in economically insecure households and just over 1 in 5 children lived below the official absolute poverty line. These rates are high, but not intractable. Evidence from the US Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, among other sources, shows the effect that public investments in cash and noncash transfers can have in reducing child poverty and improving child well-being. However, with significant disparities in services and supports for children across states and the projected decline of current federal spending on children, the United States is an international outlier in terms of public investments in children, particularly compared with other high-income nations. One such country, the United Kingdom (UK), faced similar child poverty challenges in recent decades. At the end of the 20th century, the British Prime Minister pledged to halve child poverty in a decade and eradicate it ‘within a generation.’ The Labour Government then set targets and dedicated resources in the form of income supplements, employment, child care, and education support. Child poverty levels nearly halved against an absolute measure by the end of the first decade. Subsequent changes in government and the economy slowed progress and have resulted in a very different approach. However, the UK child poverty target experience, 15 years in and spanning multiple changes in government, still offers a useful comparative example for US social policy moving forward.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: