Children at risk of poverty or social exclusion
From Statistics Explained
Children were the age group at the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2011
Statistics in focus 4/2013; Author: Cristina LÓPEZ VILAPLANA
ISSN:2314-9647 Catalogue number:KS-SF-13-004-EN-N
This article presents statistical data on the situation of children (aged 0-17) in the European Union (EU) who were at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE). The analysis, based on 2011 data, compares them with adults (18-64) and the elderly (65 or over), and also takes a look at the impact of the household type, employment situation, parents' educational level, migrant background and severe material deprivation. All figures are based on EU-SILC (Statistics on income and living conditions).
In 2011, 27.0 % of children (aged 0-17) in the EU-27 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE) compared to 24.3 % of adults (18-64) and 20.5 % of the elderly (65 or over). Concerning types of households with dependent children, single parents (49.8 %), two adults with three or more dependent children (30.8 %) and three adults or more with dependent children (28.4 %) had the highest AROPE rates.
With respect to monetary poverty, more than 45.0 % of low to very low work intensity households with dependent children were at risk of poverty. Moreover, 49.2 % of children whose parents’ highest level of education was low were at risk of poverty compared to 7.5 % of children whose parents’ highest level of education was high. Children with a migrant background were at a greater risk of poverty than children whose parents were native born. As regards living conditions, 18.4 % of single parent households were severely materially deprived compared to 9.6 % households with dependent children.
Main statistical findings
Children growing up in poverty and social exclusion are less likely to do well in school, enjoy good health and realise their full potential later in life, when they are at a higher risk of becoming unemployed and poor and socially excluded.
The AROPE indicator is defined as the share of the population in at least one of the following three conditions: 1) at risk of poverty, meaning below the poverty threshold, 2) in a situation of severe material deprivation, 3) living in a household with a very low work intensity. From 2008 to 2011, the AROPE for children rose in 21 Member States (see Figure 1).
The largest increases in the AROPE since 2008 were in Ireland (+11.0 percentage points (pp) up to 2010) and Latvia (+10.4pp). They were closely followed by Bulgaria (+7.6pp), Hungary (+6.2pp) and Estonia (+5.4pp).
Thirteen of the remaining Member States had increases of more than 1.0 pp (from 1.3pp in Sweden to 4.3pp for Spain). However, some countries recorded decreases. Major falls were recorded in Poland (- 3.1pp), the United Kingdom (-2.7pp), and Romania (-2.1pp).
Regarding the overall situation in 2011 (see Table 1), the share of children living in a household at risk of poverty or social exclusion ranged from 16-18 % in the Nordic countries, Slovenia and the Netherlands to 40-52 % in Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria.
The AROPE rates differ for different age groups. Table 1 shows the rates for some population age groups. In 2011, 27.0% of children (aged 0-17) in the EU-27 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion compared to 24.3 % of adults (18-64) and 20.5% of the elderly (65 or over). Thus, children were the population age group at the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion. This was the situation in most Member States. There were some exceptions such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden where the elderly were most at risk. In Denmark, Germany, Greece and Lithuania, adults were the population age group with the highest risk. However, despite the fact that the elderly and adults respectively had the highest AROPE rates of these two groups of countries, child poverty ranked second highest in nearly all of them.
The largest differences between the AROPE rates of children and the total population were found in Romania and Hungary at more than 8.0 pp. Ireland, Slovakia, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Malta and Italy also had rates that were more than 4.0 pp higher for children than for the total population. The AROPE rates for children and the total population were similar in Germany, Lithuania, Greece and Sweden, but this does not necessarily mean that their rates were among the lowest across the EU-27. Indeed, the AROPE rate for children in Lithuania and Greece exceeded 30%.
The main factors affecting child poverty, after taking account of the effect of social transfers in reducing child poverty, are the composition of the household in which the children live and the labour market situation of their parents, linked also to their level of education. There are also more vulnerable groups of children, such as those with migrant parents, that deserve particular attention.
Single parents and large households with dependent children
Single parents and large households with dependent children were at the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion (See figure 2).
Family structure has a significant effect on the total household disposable income. In fact, different types of households have different at-risk-of-poverty profiles. When defining household types, the concept of dependent children (individuals aged 0-17 years and 18-24 years if inactive and living with at least one parent) is used instead of the concept of children (0-17 years) as a population age group.
Dependent children in single parent families have a much higher risk of living in poverty than dependent children in two adult families. Indeed, around half (49.8%) of single parent households with dependent children were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to only about two in every ten (19.3%) of households with two adults and two dependent children.
More generally, the AROPE rate for single parent families with dependent children was approximately 25.0 pp higher than for the average household with dependent children (49.8 % vs 25.2 %).
However, as a household increases in size the AROPE rate also tends to rise. This is particularly significant for large households with dependent children (two adults with three or more dependent children and three or more adults with dependent children). Around 30 % of households with two adults with three or more dependent children (30.8 %) and of households with three or more adults with dependent children (28.4 %) were at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
The AROPE rate for households without dependent children was nevertheless higher for single person households (34.5 %) than for most households with dependent children. The only exception was single parent with dependent children households which were more at risk of poverty or social exclusion than single person households.
Low to very low work intensity households with dependent children
Over 45 % of the low to very low work intensity households with dependent children were at risk of poverty.
Labour is the most important source of income for most households and thus has an impact on the at-risk-of-poverty rate, i.e. the share of people below the poverty threshold. However, not only jobless households are at risk of poverty. Therefore, to assess the relationship between employment and risk of poverty at household level, the concept of work intensity is used. Work intensity reflects how much working age adults in a household worked in relation to their total work potential in a year. For example, dependent children who live in households with very low work intensity (equal or inferior to 0.2) are those living in households where, on average, the adults worked less than 20 % of their time in a year.
In the EU-27, the highest at-risk-of-poverty rate recorded was for very low work intensity households with dependent children (67.9 %) (see Figure 3).
Compared to households without dependent children, households with dependent children were at a greater risk of poverty across all levels of work intensity. In addition, the gap between households with and without dependent children increased when work intensity decreased. This difference in the at-risk-of-poverty rate ranged from around 2pp for high and very high work intensity households (work intensity higher than 0.55) to nearly 20pp for low and very low work intensity households (lower than 0.45) with dependent children.
Impact of parents' education level on risk of poverty
Nearly half of children whose parents did not attain upper secondary education were at risk of poverty.
Education affects the type of job an individual can access. Indeed, the risk of poverty rises as the level of education diminishes. In the EU-27 in 2011 (Figure 4), nearly 50 % of children (aged 0-17) living in households in which the highest level of education attained by the parents living in the same household was lower secondary level (0-2 ISCED) were at risk of poverty. This effect remains even after controlling for family structure and the work intensity of the household.
The risk of poverty increased by over 41.0 pp for households with low levels of education compared to households with a high level of education (5-6 ISCED).
At country level, the difference between the at-risk-of-poverty rates for children with parents with low and high levels of education ranged from 12.0-18.0 pp in Denmark and Finland to 65.0-75.0 pp in Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.
Migrant background and risk of poverty
Migrant background also matters. In fact, children with a migrant background tend to be more exposed to poverty than the total child population. Overall, in 2011 (Figure 5), children (aged 0-17) with at least one foreign-born parent were at a greater risk of poverty (+13.0 pp higher) than children with native-born parents (see Data sources and availability). The greatest differences between children with foreign- and native-born parents were in France (+25.9 pp) and Greece (+23.9 pp). For seven other Member States for which data is available, the difference was more than 15.0 pp.
The highest risks for children with at least one foreign-born parent were recorded in Spain (45.5 %), Greece (43.1 %) and France (39.3 %). On the other hand, the lowest at-risk-of-poverty rates for children with at least one foreign-born parent were observed in Malta (17.9 %), Estonia (16.9 %) and the Czech Republic (14.9 %).
However, for some European countries migration was not an issue. These last three countries were the only Member States (for which data is available), besides Latvia (+0.7pp) and Hungary (-0.9 pp), where children with at least one foreign-born parent had a similar or lower at-risk-of poverty rate than children with native-born parents (-3.4 pp, -2.0 pp and -0.2 pp, respectively).
Material deprivation: at household level
18 % of children living with single parents were severely materially deprived. Indicators of material deprivation provide a complementary view of children's well-being and living conditions (refer to online data code ilc_mddd13 under 'Material deprivation').
The severe material deprivation rate represents the share of children who live in households with an enforced lack of certain items at household level. In 2011, children (aged 0-17) in the EU-27 also had the highest rate (10.0 %) of severe material deprivation, higher than adults (8.9 %) and the elderly (7.2 %). Compared to 2008, there was a slight increase in the overall rate for children (+0.3 pp).
However, there were significant changes at country level, particularly in Latvia (+12.6 pp), Hungary (+8.3 pp) and Greece (+6 pp).
With respect to types of households, 18.4 % of single parents and 11.2 % of two adults with three or more dependent children were at the highest risk compared to, on average, 9.6 % of households with dependent children.
Material deprivation: child-specific items
The ad-hoc module in the EU-SILC 2009 provides information focused on specific children material deprivation items. Here, children are referred as those aged 1-15 years (See Table 2).
In table 2, the most significant items are shown. Regarding food items, 34.5 % of children in Bulgaria did not eat fresh fruit and vegetables once a day as these items could not be afforded. The situation was similar in Romania (23.8 %), Hungary (17.2 %) and Latvia (15.4 %). Similarly, in Bulgaria and Romania, around 30 % of children did not eat one meal with meat, chicken or fish or vegetarian equivalent (proteins) per day because the household could not afford it. For both items, in the EU-27, the average share was about 4.0-5.0 %.
Regarding clothes and shoes items, Bulgaria, had the highest share of deprivation: 35 % of children in Bulgaria did not have new clothes because the household could not afford them. Overall, in the EU-27, 5.9 % of children were deprived in this dimension. This is the item that was lacking the most across countries out of the four items presented. More than 20 % of children in Romania (25.2 %), Latvia (24.5 %) and Hungary (21.8 %), but also 13 % or more of children in Portugal, Slovakia and Lithuania did not have new clothes because the household could not afford them.
Finally, 44.3 % of children in Bulgaria suffered from an enforced lack of two pair of properly fitting shoes (including a pair of allweather shoes). However, in 18 of the Member States, the share was below 4.0 %.
Data sources and availability
EU-SILC is the main source of information used in the European Union to develop indicators monitoring poverty and social exclusion.
People at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate (AROPE): This indicator is the headline indicator to monitor the EU2020 Strategy poverty target. It reflects the share of the population which is either at risk of poverty, or severely materially deprived or lives in a household a very low work intensity.
Children with migrant background: A child is considered to have a migrant background if at least one of the parents living with him/her was foreign born. On the other hand, a child is considered to be native-born if both parents living in the household are native-born or, if there is only one parent in the household, that parent is native-born.
Material Deprivation for Children (2009 module): A child is deprived in one item if the household cannot afford that item for at least one child (enforced lack). This module only includes 1-15 year-old children.
- Some new (not second-hand) clothes;
- Two pairs of properly fitting shoes, including a pair of all-weather shoes;
- Fresh fruits & vegetables daily;
- Three meals a day;
- One meal with meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent daily;
- Books at home suitable for the children’s age;
- Outdoor leisure equipment; <span id="fck_dom_range_temp_1363772092150_357" />
- Indoor games;
- A suitable place to do homework;
- To consult a dentist when needed;
- To consult a general practitioner (GP) when needed;
- Regular leisure activities (sports, youth organisations, etc.);
- Celebrations on special occasions;
- To invite friends round to play and eat from time to time;
- To participate in school trips and school events that costs money;
- Outdoor space in the neighbourhood to play safely;
- One week annual holiday away from home
Highest level of education attained by parents living in the child's household: The classification of educational activities is based on ISCED — the International Standard Classification of Education — UNESCO 1997. It has the following categories:
- ISCED 0 — pre-primary education
- ISCED 1 — primary education
- ISCED 2 — lower secondary education
- ISCED 3 — (upper) secondary education
- ISCED 4 — post-secondary non-tertiary education
- ISCED 5 — first stage of tertiary education
- ISCED 6 — second stage of tertiary education
EU average: EU aggregates are computed as the population-weighted averages of national indicators.
EU-SILC (EU Statistics on income and living conditions) is the reference source for statistics and indicators on income and living conditions. It is regulated under the Framework Regulation 1177/2003
Further Eurostat information
- 23 % of EU citizens were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2010 Statistics in focus 9/2012
- Children were the age group at the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2011 Statistics in focus 4/2013
- Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2012 (DG Employment)
- In 2011, 27 % of children aged less than 18 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion – News release
- In 2011, 24 % of the population were at risk of poverty or social exclusion – News release
- The 9 poorest countries catching up on income per capita - Statistics in focus 16/2011
Income and living conditions (ilc)see:
- People at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Europe 2020 strategy) (ilc_pe)
- Main indicator - Europe 2020 target on poverty and social exclusion (ilc_peps)
- Income distribution and monetary poverty (ilc_ip)
- Monetary poverty (ilc_li)
- Employment and social policy indicators
- Europe 2020 Indicators
- Income, social inclusion and living conditions
- Quality of life indicators
- Income and living conditions (ESMS metadata file - ilc_esms)
- Measuring material deprivation in the EU — Indicators for the whole population and child-specific indicators Methodologies and working papers
- Regulation 1177/2003 of 16 June 2003 concerning Community statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC)
- Regulation 1553/2005 of 7 September 2005 amending Regulation 1177/2003 concerning Community statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC)
- Regulation 1791/2006 of 20 November 2006 adapting certain Regulations and Decisions in the fields of ... statistics, ..., by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania
- Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2012 (DG employment)
- OECD - Better Life Initiative: Measuring Well-being and Progress
- OECD - StatExtracts - Income distribution - Inequality: Income distribution - Inequality - Country tables
- Social Investment Package (DG employment)
- The social dimension of the EUROPE 2020 strategy - A report of the social protection committee (2011)
- Housing conditions
- Housing statistics
- Income distribution statistics
- Material deprivation and low work intensity statistics
- People at risk of poverty or social exclusion
- Social inclusion statistics