Headlines: April 25th, 2006

Research to be unveiled today at a conference at the London School of Economics will demonstrate clearly the link between childhood poverty and the problem going on into adulthood life. Then organisers say this is the first time that a nationally representative study has shown how people who grow up poor face poverty into middle age. They say, too, that this trend is getting worse.Today’s ‘Poverty over the lifecycle’ conference will see the publication of a study produced for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The organisers say that while children in poverty are the focus of much attention, the new report examines the experiences of adults to assess the impact of a failure to deal with childhood poverty.

The research points to an increased likelihood of poverty in their early 30s for people who were poor teenagers compared to those who were better off in their teens. The chance of facing problems of poverty in the 1980s was twice as strong as it was for those from the 1970s. The study also shows how the impact of being poor as a teenager continues to affect people moving into middle age.

The report’s author, Jo Blanden, says the research indicates that dealing with income poverty will not on its own address the problem of persistent poverty. “Our research shows that there is no quick fix to ending these enduring patterns of poverty across generations. It highlights the importance of the policy agenda to reduce child poverty and disadvantage but also shows that this cannot be done through income transfers alone,” she says.

The study finds that poverty persists across the lifecycle and that many of the negative effects of teenage poverty are a consequence of other characteristics of disadvantage, such as low parental education, unemployment and poor neighbourhoods. Poverty in adulthood, the study shows is associated with low education, lack of employment and employment experience and, for women it is linked to single parenthood.

The researchers say findings on why poverty persists are less clear-cut and suggest that initiatives to improve skills and employment opportunities are probably the only sensible way to tackle the problem of persistent poverty. There is, they say, no quick fix available through other more specific interventions.