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New research reveals why children move into poverty

25 June 2015 | Tags: families, Income and work, NatCen, single parents, children and young people, Understanding Society, marriage, poverty

New research published today by NatCen Social Research and City University London uncovers the family-related factors driving changes in income that shifts a family below the poverty line.

The report “Child Poverty Transitions” shows that the main factor causing children to fall into poverty is worklessness – around two in five children whose family became workless fell into poverty (42% with parents initially in part-time work and 38% with parents initially in full-time work).

It also reveals other factors driving transitions into poverty, including having more children and parental separation.

-       New families: A quarter of ‘new families’ (26%) were in poverty in the year after having their first child. Having a third or fourth child increased the chances of entering poverty compared to one or two child families.

-       Lone parents: Around eight in ten lone parent families (79%) were in poverty in the year after having their first child. While all children whose parents separated were at increased risk of entering poverty.

-       Occupation: Families where the main worker worked in the sales and customer service industry were slightly more likely to enter poverty than other occupations.

-       Ethnicity: Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Black African children were more likely to fall into poverty than children of other ethnicities.

Key events related to entering child poverty

 events causing poverty

A quarter of children experience poverty

The report also shows how children move in and out of poverty over time, finding that around a quarter of children in the UK were below the poverty line at some point between 2010 and 2012.

During the two year period 12% of children remained in poverty throughout, 7% fell into poverty and 6% escaped from poverty.  

Dr Matt Barnes, from the Department of Sociology at City University London, said: “Understanding the transitions or movements into and out of poverty is essential if we want to put in place mechanisms to prevent people falling into poverty and to help them escape from it. Government may want to look at what it can do to provide greater protection for lone-parent families, larger families and people starting a family for the first time, and for families that experience events such as loss or reduction of work or earnings, and parental separation.”


For further details or copy of the report contact Leigh Marshall: 0207 549 8506 or 0782 803 1850. Dr Matt Barnes can be contacted on

 Notes to editors:

The research was funded by the Child Poverty Unit, Department for Work and Pensions.

The research used data from the 2009/10 to 2011/12 waves of the Understanding Society survey.  It also used data from the Millennium Cohort Study to focus on poverty among ‘new families’ at the start of the new millennium

The definition of poverty used in “Child Poverty Transitions” is below 60 per cent of median equivalised net household income.

You can download the full report free from: