Child Poverty: Concepts and Measures

The current economic crisis makes it more urgent than ever for children to be put at the front of agendas when thinking about reducing poverty. Locally, nationally and globally, efforts to mitigate and reduce poverty’s negative impacts must feature an emphasis on children. Until recently, child poverty was not distinguished from adult poverty for purposes of study, measurement and action. Rather than being considered as the separate matter that it is, it was traditionally assumed that child poverty refered to children living in income or consumption poor households.

The definition commonly used for the poverty line is biased towards adult consumption and underestimates the impact of poverty on children. Many of the needs of children cannot be assessed according to market buy-in, and depend on the availability of basic social services and family care. Some of the initial, seminal discussion on this appeared at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s (Minujin et al. (1999) Putting Children into Poverty Statistics, available online; Vandermoortele Jan (2000) Poverty Reduction Start with Children, UNICEF; White et al. (2002) Perspectives on Child Poverty: A Review of Poverty Measures, available online)

In recent years, a useful and constructive debate has begun about the relevance of conceptualizing child poverty on its own, developing alternative measurements of poverty and pushing forward children in the poverty agenda at the global, regional and country levels. This is based on the initial work developed by UNICEF and Bristol University in the early 2000’s [Gordon et al. (2003), Ascertaining the Prevalence of Childhood Disability, available online; Minujin et al. (2003) Children Living in Poverty: Overview of Definitions, Measurements and Policies, available online]; organizations and scholars have begun to develop important conceptual and practical inputs that enrich the discussion (CHIP 2004,; CCF 2003, available online; and many others).

In a similar vein, the Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparity was launched by UNICEF in over 44 developing countries around the world, and provides new evidence to fuel the debate on child poverty, including concepts and measurements. Visit their website and blog for more information.

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