Birthdays on the breadline

Over half of parents in lower-income groups cannot afford to organise birthday parties for their children, according to the findings of a new survey. An opinion poll was combined with focus group research to give a picture of the financial stress surrounding children's parties for those in poverty.

Key findings

  • Opinion polling found over half (51 per cent) of parents in lower-income groups ('C2DE') with children under 18 said they couldn't afford to organise parties for them. For parents overall this figure was 44 per cent, and for those aged 18-24 it rose to 83 per cent.
  • More than a quarter (27 per cent) of parents believed it was their duty to organise a birthday party for their child, even if they couldn't afford it. Focus group participants (mainly lower-income parents) gave a range of reasons for spending more than they could afford, including a desire to compensate for their own memories of poor childhoods and missing out on birthdays, and a fear of their children being bullied by other children.
  • A fifth (21 per cent) of parents said they would cut back on household expenses, such as food, to enable them to afford their child's birthday party; over a quarter (27 per cent) said they would go without new clothes for themselves or their children; 41 per cent would go without a night out with their friends; and 46 per cent said they would consider saving for at least a month to afford the party.

Family Action, the charity behind the report, questioned whether – given the importance of the birthday party as a marker of social inclusion in childhood – it is right that some children should witness their schoolfriends’ birthday celebrations but have no hope of a celebration themselves. It pointed out that as benefit cuts come into effect and families live with below-inflation wage rises, the experience of a birthday party with friends and family may be denied to more and more children in the poorest groups.

SourceBirthdays on the Breadline, Family Action
LinksReport | Family Action press release