Otago study reveals 'hard to ignore' child poverty

A "difficult to ignore" proportion of New Zealand children have lived in persistently low income households in the past decade, research shows.

University of Otago researchers today released data showing that 16 per cent of a sample of almost 5000 children experienced persistent low income from 2002 to 2009.

The data was collected from the Survey of Family, Income and Employment.

A sample range of 4930 children aged 0 to 17 years were chosen and their household incomes measured.

Persistent low income was defined as where, before tax, household annual incomes were less than half the median household income during four or more of the seven surveyed years.

In 2002 low household income was defined as below $21,530, and in 2009 as below $28,295.

Researcher Fiona Imlach Gunasekara said Maori and Pacific Island children were much more likely to experience persistent low income, with 23 per cent of Maori children and 29 per cent of Pacific Island children falling into the category.

About a third of children with a solo parent experienced persistent low income.

Dr Gunasekara said exposure to many years of poverty or deprivation in childhood increased the risk of poor child development and health.

"These children are also more likely to grow up to be adults with worse health outcomes and lower socioeconomic status."

She said this level of child poverty was difficult to ignore.

"We also need ongoing monitoring of the levels of persistent child poverty, so we can tell if what we are doing is making a difference, which could be done through the establishment of a Children's Act and targets for reducing poverty, as the EAG (Expert Advisory Group on solutions to child poverty) have suggested."

The results were published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal,

 

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