Poor children living in rich households: A Blurred Picture or Hidden Realities?

Roelen, Keetie (2016). 'Poor children living in rich households: A Blurred Picture or Hidden Realities?' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

An expanding evidence base suggests that child poverty is a diverse experience, challenging the notion that monetary poverty measures can serve as a proxy for multidimensional poverty and vice versa. This holds particularly true for children given their dependence on others for the provision of their basic needs. Yet few studies have investigated explanations for differential child poverty outcomes and their diverse experiences in a comprehensive manner. This study breaks new ground by providing a unique mixed methods investigation of drivers of differential child poverty outcomes in Burundi, Ethiopia and Vietnam. It considers the role of measurement error and factors in the public and private spheres in explaining why some children experience monetary poverty but not multidimensional poverty and vice versa. It does so by capitalising on secondary large-scale quantitative panel data and combining this with purposively collected primary qualitative and participatory data in all three countries.
This study finds that measurement error only provides a partial explanation for differential outcomes in monetary and multidimensional poverty for individual children. Educational attainment, occupation and marital status of the heads of household play a significant but highly context-specific role in explaining diverse experiences. Parental awareness of and attitudes towards investments in child wellbeing is found to be crucial for promoting children’s outcomes despite limited monetary resources in all contexts. These factors may also play into a trade-off between household wealth and child wellbeing with short-term gains in wealth being prioritised over long-term gains in child development. Cross-contextual findings also indicate that the availability of infrastructure, services and social protection policies present important enabling factors for or barriers to securing child wellbeing in situations with limited or ample monetary resources. Finally, aspirations crucially inform children’s own decisions towards improvements in short-term versus long-term outcomes.
This study exemplifies the need for comprehensive child poverty measurement and mixed methods analysis of its context-specific underlying drivers and diverse experiences. Most crucially it highlights the importance of a nuanced policy response that responds to differential outcomes and experiences in aiming to reduce all forms of child poverty.

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