Impact of the recession on child poverty and deprivation in the UK

Jonathan Bradshaw and Gill Main, Social Policy Research Unit, University of York

Child income poverty

There is always a lag in the data on child poverty. Until the next Households Below Average Income Statistics for 2012/13 are published in May/June 2014 we only have data for the first two years of the Coalition Government, a period of many announcements but only the beginnings of implementation. Figure 1 shows what has been happening to the Child Poverty Act target measures up to the latest data available. Because median incomes have been falling (by 6% in real terms between 2007/8-2013/14) the relative child poverty rate has been falling and some of the reduction in the low income and material derivation measure can also be attributed to this. The “absolute” child poverty rate has been rising since 2009/10. The dotted lines on the chart indicate what would need to happen to reach the Child Poverty Act targets in 2020.

For child income poverty projections we rely on the Institute for Fiscal Studies modelling, which at the time of writing the latest is dated January 2014, and does not yet take account of the announcements made in the Autumn Statement in 2013. The IFS estimate that relative child poverty will increase from 17.4% in 2011/12 to 22.5% in 2020/21 and “absolute” child poverty will increase form 19.5% in 2011/12 to 27.9% in 2020/21.

Figure 1. Trends in child poverty in the UK

Source: HBAI (2014)

Child deprivation

The HBAI series only publishes material deprivation rates with low income. In order to trace trends in material deprivation alone we undertook two analyses. The HBAI data sets contain a flag for those households with children meeting the >25% deprivation threshold.

Table 2 shows that there is little evidence as yet of a trend for increasing deprivation.

Table 2. Prevalence weighted deprivation

Year % households with children >25% deprivation
2006/07 23
2007/08 25
2008/09 23
2009/10 26
2010/11 25
2011/12 21

Source: HBAI for each year

Prevalence weighted deprivation might be hiding clearer trends in individual derivation items and also may be influenced by the fact that ‘lacking swimming once a month’ was dropped from the index in 2011/12. So in Table 3 we have undertaken analysis of the FRS for each year. The first half of the table shows the proportion of children lacking each item because they cannot afford them. Only ‘holiday away from home’ shows a serial trend upwards in the proportion lacking. The second half of the table shows the proportion of children lacking a number of items (and we have excluded swimming from the count for all years). Again there is no serial trend evident but the proportion lacking one or more items has increased slightly over the period.

Table 3. Child deprivation items lacking

2006-7 2007-8 2008-9 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Outdoor space / facilities to play safely 15.2 14.5 12.9 10.8 9.4 8.6
Enough bedrooms for every child 10 years or over and of a different gender 15.4 15.9 16 17.2 14.4 11.4
Celebrations on special occasion 3.8 3.9 3.3 3.4 2.7 2.6
Leisure equipment such as sports equipment or a bicycle 6.4 7.2 7.2 7.2 6.4 5.9
At least one week's holiday away from home with family 31.6 31.4 34.8 36.4 36.4 37.2
Hobby or leisure activity 6.2 6.4 6.9 7.1 5.7 5.4
Swimming at least once a month 10.1 10.6 11 10.9 11 N/A
Have friends round for tea or a snack once a fortnight 6.8 7.3 8.4 8.2 6.8 5.9
Go on school trip at least once a term 6.3 5.2 5.5 6.2 4.5 4.7
Go to a playgroup at least once a week 5.9 7.8 6.2 6.4 4.9 5.4
Lacking 2006-7 2007-8 2008-9 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
None 58.4 58.9 56.8 55.8 57.4 56.7
One 22.5 21.3 23.1 24.3 25.0 26.2
Two 9.8 10.6 10.3 10.2 8.9 9.6
Three 4.5 4.3 4.6 4.7 4.9 4.3
Four 2.2 2.1 2.5 2.7 1.9 2.0
Five 1.5 1.4 1.5 1.1 1.1 0.6
Six 0.7 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4
Seven 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.5 0.2 0.1
Eight 0.1 0.1 0.1 0 0 0
Nine 0 0 0 0 0 0
Source: Bradshaw and Main analysis of the Family resources Survey

EU SILC also collects data on deprivation. Figure 2 shows trends in the proportion of children in households lacking three or more deprivation items. There has been a sharp increase in the UK from 6.4% in 2007 to 12.2% in 2012 (the UK data for 2009 is not reliable). Unfortunately there was a break in this series in 2012 when the data source was switched to the Family Resources Survey. So we cannot be certain that this result is reliable.

Figure 2: Proportion of children under 16 in households with severe deprivation in the EU

Source: Eurostat database


By 2011/12 there is no clear evidence that child deprivation had increased as a result of the recession and the Coalition’s austerity policies. However it has to be remembered that although unemployment had increased by 2011/12 and incomes had already fallen in real terms, many of the cuts in benefits and services only began to be implemented after April 2011. We need to watch this space.


Publication date: 
Jan 31 2014


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Thanks for the information you have provided. The worldwide economic recession has been bad for disadvantaged socioeconomic groups everywhere. However, according to a new study, girls and women are affected the most.

Well at least we are in the bottom 10, in the EU for under 16s with severe deprivation, though no room for complacency. The coalition Government are taking steps towards alleviating this, for example, raising the minimum wage, and the child care subsidy for working families to be increased up to £2,000 pounds.