Children in low-income households

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • The proportion of children living in low-income households (using the low-income threshold of the 60% of median income after deducting housing costs) is lower than a decade ago: an average of 25% of all children in the years 2006/07 to 2008/09 compared to 32% in the years 1996/97 to 1998/99.
  • Nevertheless, children continue to be much more likely to live in low-income households than adults.
  • Around 250,000 children now live in low-income households.
  • Almost half of all people in lone parent families are in low income.  This is three times the rate for couples with children.
  • Half of all the children in low-income households are in lone parent families.
  • An child’s risk of low income varies greatly depending on how much paid work the family does.  However, unless all adults in the family are working (and at least one of them full time), the risks of being in low income are still substantial: 85% for unemployed families, 75% for other workless families; and (notably) 25% for those where the adults are part-working.  For each family work status except for ‘all working’, the risk of low income is somewhat lower than a decade ago.
  • Half of all the children in low-income households live in families where at least one of the adults is in paid work.
  • Most of the lone parents in low income are not working.  In contrast, most of the couples with children in low income do have someone in paid work.  The net result is that most of the children in low-income households are either in couple families where someone is in paid work or in workless lone parent families.
  • The proportion of children in low-income households in Scotland is now lower than in any of the other regions of Great Britain.  This is because the falls over the last decade have been greater in Scotland than in any of the other regions.

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the risk of a child being in a low-income household.  For comparison purposes, the equivalent data for Great Britain as a whole is also shown.

The second graph shows the risks of being in low income for people in different family types.  Note that a couple (and therefore both of its adults) is classified as a pensioner couple if either of the adults is of pensionable age.

The third graph shows the risk of a child being in a low-income household, with the data shown separately for the following family work statuses: all working (single or couple, with one in full-time work and the other – if applicable – in full-time or part-time work); part working (couples where one is working and the other is not plus singles or couples where no one is working full-time but one or more are working part-time); workless – unemployed (head or spouse unemployed) and workless – economically inactive (includes long-term sick/disabled and lone parents).  The self-employed and workless families aged 60 and over are excluded from the analysis.  The data is shown separately for the latest three years and for a decade earlier.

The fourth graph shows a breakdown of the children who are in low-income households by family type and work status (workless or someone in paid work).

The fifth graph shows how the risk of children being in low-income households in Scotland compares with the rest of Great Britain, with the data shown separately for the latest three years and for a decade earlier.

The data source for all the graphs is Households Below Average Income, based on the Family Resources Survey (FRS).  A child is defined as an individual who is either under 16 or is an unmarried 16- to 18-year-old on a course up to and including A level standard (or Highers in Scotland).   Income is disposable household income after deducting housing costs and the low-income threshold is the same as that used elsewhere, namely 60% of British contemporary median household income.  All the data is equivalised (adjusted) to account for differences in household size and composition.  The self-employed are included in the statistics.  Note that in 2007 DWP made some technical changes to how it adjusted household income for household composition (including retrospective changes) and, as a result, the data is slightly different than previously published figures.  The averaging over three-year periods has been done to improve statistical reliability.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: high.  The FRS is a well-established annual government survey, designed to be representative of the population as a whole.  Note, however, that the coverage of the surveys prior to 2001/2 did not extend beyond the Caledonian Canal.

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