Social and Economic Policy

Child poverty and disparities

© UNICEF/ HQ06-1355/Claudio Versiani

Child poverty and disparities in context

Generally poverty is understood to mean income poverty, and is based on data collected at the household level. While important, for children such measures are far from sufficient, and can mask the life changing deprivations to their rights they may be experiencing: a certain income level does not necessarily mean a household has all it needs to provide what a child needs for a good start in life, nor that children are prioritised in household expenditures. Indeed, it may be the labour of children themselves that is putting a household above the poverty line.

As such, child poverty must – to the extent data is available – focus on whether individual children face deprivations to a range of their rights such as health, education, nutrition, participation and protection from harm, exploitation and discrimination. UNICEF takes this multi-dimensional approach, and while progress has been made toward reducing poverty and its effect on children, there is still much work to be done to assist the one billion children living in poverty – about half of all children in the world.

Understanding the impact of child poverty

Understanding child poverty to the fullest possible extent is vital. While an adult may fall into poverty temporarily, falling into poverty in childhood can last a lifetime – rarely does a child get a second chance at an education or a healthy start in life. As such, child poverty threatens not only the individual child, but is likely to be passed on to future generations, entrenching and even exacerbating inequality in society.

As long as policy debates focus solely on income poverty, children and their priorities will miss out, and the battle to end the cycle of poverty will be undermined. UNICEF is working to more fully understand how and where children are experiencing poverty, to allow a more nuanced set of policy responses in mechanisms such as poverty-reduction strategies.

To help better understand the impact of child poverty, UNICEF launched a Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities. This multi-country study looks at both outcomes and policies that are important for children.  UNICEF hopes to make children a higher priority in national agendas and integrating collaboration. Read more about the study.




Child Poverty Insights

January 2010
Authors: Hugh Waddington and Birte Snilstveit
Measuring policy effectiveness through impact evaluation:

October 2009
Authors: Sabina Alkire and  José Manuel Roche
Beyond Headcount: The Alkire-Foster Approach to Multidimensional Child Poverty Measurement:

August 2009
Author: Alberto Minujin
Making the Case for Measuring Child Poverty: