‘Breadwinner’ families worst for child poverty

Families with a traditional ‘breadwinner’ model – where one parent (usually the father) goes out to work while the other stays at home to care for children – are now the largest group of households with children living in poverty, according to research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Key findings

  • Almost one-third of families with children living in poverty are single-breadwinner couple families. There are half as many dual-earning families living in poverty.
  • Among the 1.3 million families with children living in poverty in 2011-12, 31 per cent (400,000 families) were couple families with a single breadwinner; 16 per cent (210,000 families) were dual-earning couples; 8 per cent (105,000 families) were working lone parents; and the remaining families were either workless single parents or workless couples.
  • The number of single-breadwinner couple families has been falling in recent decades, largely as a result of social change, with more women wanting to work. But around one-quarter of couple families with children had only one earner in 2012.
  • Most non-working partners are mothers, with lower employment levels among mothers who have pre-school children compared with those who have school-age children.

The JRF reports highlight the need to support more dual-earning couples and to enable lone parents to work, or to work more hours, in order to reduce poverty. Recommendations include: allowing second earners to keep more income before withdrawing means-tested benefits; expanding publicly funded affordable childcare; and more generous family leave, including longer paternity leave.

Source: Kayte Lawton and Spencer Thompson, Tackling In-Work Poverty by Supporting Dual-Earning Families, Joseph Rowntree Foundation | Matt Barnes and Chris Lord, Poverty, Economic Status and Skills: What Are the Links?, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
LinksReport (1) | Summary (1) | Report (2) | Summary (2) | JRF press release | IPPR article | Guardian report

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