Study reveals persistent deprivation for New Zealand children

September 21, 2012, University of Otago

A sizeable and "difficult to ignore" proportion of New Zealand children have experienced persistent low income and deprivation in recent years, according to a new University of Otago study using seven years of longitudinal survey data.

The researchers, Dr Fiona Imlach Gunasekara and Dr Kristie Carter from the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington, used data from the Survey of Family, Income and Employment (SoFIE) and a sample of 4,930 children aged 0 to 17 years beginning in 2002, followed up until 2009. By 2009, the sample ranged in age from 6 to 23 years.

The results, published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal, show that 16%, or 765, of the sample of 4930 children in the survey experienced persistent low income. Persistent low income is defined as where (before tax) household annual income is less than half of the median household income during four or more out of the seven years of the survey. In 2002 low household income was defined as below $21,530. Seven years later in 2009, a household would need to receive less than $28,295 to be classified as low income.

Dr Imlach Gunasekara says that Māori and Pacific children were much more likely to experience persistent low income, affecting 23% of Māori children (245 of 1045 Māori children in the survey) and 29% of Pacific children (85 of 295 Pacific children in the survey).

Children of sole parents had the greatest risk, with around one third of these children experiencing persistent low income (310 of 920 children of sole parents).

Researchers also measured the level of persistent deprivation among the , where they or reported two or more items on an eight-item individual deprivation scale for two or three out of three years. On this scale, 13% of the children experienced persistent deprivation (670 of 4930 children).

Deprivation items on this scale included having made use of food grants, food banks or received other help from a community organisation; having to cope with feeling cold to save on heating costs; being forced to buy cheaper food or go without fresh fruit and vegetables so they could pay for other things; having to continue to wear shoes with holes because they could not afford to replace them; and receipt of an -tested benefit or unemployment for four or more weeks during the last year.

Twenty-two percent of Māori and Pacific children experienced persistent deprivation (235 of 1045 Māori and 65 of 295 Pacific children), but children of sole parents again had the greatest risk, with around one-third of these children experiencing persistent deprivation (310 of 920 children).

"We know from other research that exposure to many years of poverty or deprivation in childhood increases the risk of poor child development and health," says Dr Imlach Gunasekara.

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

This research is from one of the working papers supporting the Issues and Options Paper recently released by the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Solutions to Child Poverty (formed by the Children's Commission).

"The EAG recommend setting targets for child poverty reduction and introducing child poverty legislation," says Dr Imlach Gunasekara.

"These measures are necessary if we are to see a reduction in child poverty levels over time. 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 's Act and targets for reducing poverty, as the EAG have suggested. This level of is difficult to ignore."

Explore further: More poor kids in more poor places, study finds

Related Stories

More poor kids in more poor places, study finds

October 18, 2011
Persistent high poverty is most prevalent among children, with those living in rural America disproportionally impacted, according to researchers from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

Children's health, access to care differ by parents' immigrant status

September 11, 2012
Health is an important part of development, with links to how children do cognitively and academically, and it's a strong predictor of adult health and productivity. A new study of low-income families in the United States ...

Recommended for you

Group suggests pushing age of adolescence to 24

January 22, 2018
A small group of researchers with the Royal Children's Hospital in Australia is suggesting that it might be time to change the span of years that define adolescence—from the current 10 to 19 to a proposed 10 to 24 years ...

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.