Child poverty is caused by a range of factors which work together and result in inadequate household resources. Factors which contribute to insufficient income include:

Inadequate income from employment:

In 2019-22, 69% of children in poverty were living in working households, confirming that employment is by no means a guaranteed route out of poverty (Source: Scottish Government). In 1997 -2000, the figure was 43%. While employment may be rising, changes to the quality and nature of work (such as insecure work, underemployment and low wages) have driven up in-work poverty. (Source: McKendrick, J. et al, 2014. Poverty in Scotland)

Households in which no-one is in paid employment are most likely to experience poverty. Common barriers to work include a lack of suitable employment opportunities, a lack of suitable child care, caring responsibilities, ill health, disability and employer discrimination.

Living costs:

Price rises have outpaced wages recently, putting pressure on low income households. Many of these are essential costs, such as food, energy and transport. As Joseph Rowntree Foundation outline, the poorest fifth of households spend twice as much of their income on food and fuel compared with households in the top fifth of income. 

In addition to this, low-income households often pay more for essential goods and services (the ‘poverty premium’). As Bristol University note, the poverty premium is due to a range of factors:

  1. Demand-side factors. These relate to the needs or preferences of low-income consumers.
  2. Supply-side factors. These reflect how markets shape the choices available and impose additional costs on consumers.
  3. Compounding factors. These are issues such as digital exclusion and geography. 

Inadequate social security:

Despite being intended, at its most basic, as a safety net against poverty, many families in receipt of social security benefits are living below the poverty line. Nearly three quarters of households with children in which no-one works experience poverty. Furthermore, ongoing welfare reforms are a major contributing factor to the dramatic increase in child poverty which is projected for Scotland.

The interaction of the factors above mean that children in households with certain characteristics are at greater risk of experiencing poverty. For example Scottish Government statistics show that:
• 39% of children in single parent households live in poverty. 
• 28% of children with a disabled family member live in poverty.
• 34% of children living in households where there are more than two children live in poverty.