Child poverty facts and figures
Poverty affects one in four children in the UK today. When kids grow up poor they miss out – and so do the rest of us. They miss out on the things most children take for granted: warm clothes, school trips, having friends over for tea. They do less well at school and earn less as adults.
Any family can fall on hard times and find it difficult to make ends meet. But poverty isn’t inevitable. With the right policies every child can have the opportunity to do well in life, and we all share the rewards of having a stronger economy and a healthier, fairer society.
- There were 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2014-15. That’s 28 per cent of children, or 9 in a classroom of 30.1
- London is the area with the highest rates of child poverty in the country.2 You can see child poverty rates by local area by visiting End Child Poverty.
- Child poverty reduced dramatically between 1998/9-2011/12 when 800,000 children were lifted out of poverty. Since 2010, child poverty figures have flat-lined.3
- As a direct result of tax and benefit decisions made since 2010, the Institute for Fiscal Studies project that the number of children in relative poverty will have risen from 2.3 to 3.6 million by 2020 (poverty figures before housing costs).4
- Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a family where at least one member works.5
- Children in large families are at a far greater risk of living in poverty – 34% of children in poverty live in families with three or more children.6
- Families experience poverty for many reasons, but its fundamental cause is not having enough money to cope with the circumstances in which they are living. A family might move into poverty because of a rise in living costs, a drop in earnings through job loss or benefit changes.7
- Child poverty blights childhoods. Growing up in poverty means being cold, going hungry, not being able to join in activities with friends. For example, 60 per cent of families in the bottom income quintile would like, but cannot afford, to take their children on holiday for one week a year.8
- Child poverty has long-lasting effects. By GCSE, there is a 28 per cent gap between children receiving free school meals and their wealthier peers in terms of the number achieving at least 5 A*-C GCSE grades.9
- Poverty is also related to more complicated health histories over the course of a lifetime, again influencing earnings as well as the overall quality – and indeed length - of life. Men in the most deprived areas of England have a life expectancy 9.2 years shorter than men in the least deprived areas. They also spend 14% less of their life in good health. 10 Women share similar statistics.
- Child poverty imposes costs on broader society – estimated to be at least £29 billion a year.11 Governments forgo prospective revenues as well as commit themselves to providing services in the future if they fail to address child poverty in the here and now.
- Childcare and housing are two of the costs that take the biggest toll on families’ budgets. When you account for childcare costs, an extra 130,000 children are pushed into poverty.12
- 1. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2015/16, Tables 4a and 4b. Department for Work and Pensions, 2016.
- 2. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2015/16, Table 4.23ts. Department for Work and Pensions, 2016.
- 3. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2015/16, Tables 4a and 4b. Department for Work and Pensions, 2016.
- 4. Browne J, Hood A, and Joyce, R. Child and working age poverty in Northern Ireland over the next decade: an update. Institute for Fiscal Studies, November 2014.
- 5. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2015/16, Table 4.5db. Department for Work and Pensions, 2016.
- 6. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2015/16, Table 4.5db. Department for Work and Pensions, 2016.
- 7. Child poverty transitions: exploring the routes into and out of poverty 2009 to 2012, Department for Work and Pensions, 2015.
- 8. Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2015/16, Table 4.7db. Department for Work and Pensions, 2016.
- 9. GCSE and equivalent attainment by pupil characteristics: 2014. Department for Education, February 2015.
- 10. Inequality in Healthy Life Expectancy at Birth by National Deciles of Area Deprivation: England, 2009-11. Office for National Statistics, Statistical Bulletin. 14 March 2014.
- 11. D Hirsch, Estimating the costs of child poverty. Child Poverty Action Group. 2013
- 12. D Hirsch and L Valadez. How much does the official measure of child poverty under-estimate its extent by failing to take account of childcare costs? June 2015.