Briefing Note (BN32)

How has child poverty changed since 1998-99? An update

Date: 01 March 2003
Authors:
DOI: 10.1920/bn.ifs.2003.0032
An additional 100,000 children were lifted out of poverty on the most commonly cited of the governments relative poverty measures between 200001 and 200102. The most recent figures show 3.8 million children (roughly 30 per cent of all children) in Britain in households with income below 60 per cent of the median income after housing costs.

Although this means that almost one in three children in Britain live in poverty on this definition, this is the lowest level recorded since 1991. Since the Labour government came to power, the total drop in the numbers in child poverty has been around 500,000. In 199899, the government set a target for child poverty in 200405. If the rate of decline in child poverty observed since 199899 continues for three more years, then the government will miss this target. Indeed, it is now further behind schedule than it was based on figures from 200001.

The rather slow decline in recorded child poverty is due, in large part, to the fact that the government is targeting relative, rather than absolute, poverty. Income growth has been particularly strong across society since 199899, and this means that the poverty line has risen significantly over this time. Although the government is continuing to increase the living standards of low-income households with children, the gap with the rest of society is not closing as fast as the government would like. Rectifying this may require additional resources to be directed to families with children in the forthcoming Budget, on top of measures already announced.