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Poverty risk rises with number of children

February 7, 2018

You are more likely to fall into poverty with each additional child you have, a new German study has found. Its financial backers have called for a fundamental re-think of the child benefits system.

A child walking downstairs with his mother
Image: picture alliance/dpa/M. Kusch

German researchers published a study on Wednesday that found familes face an increasing risk of poverty with each additional child in the family, contrasting starkly with a study of the same data in 2015.

Researchers at Ruhr University in Bochum took figures from 2015 and developed a new methodology for their research factoring in the disposable incomes of households across the wealth spectrum.

The study found 13 percent of couples with one child, 16 percent of parents with two children and 18 percent of parents with three children were at risk of poverty. The benchmark for poverty was set at 60 percent of national, average income.

The figures varied significantly from figures processed using the methodology of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In the German research funded by the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Ruhr University study found that 68 percent of single parents were at risk of poverty. Using the OECD methods, the figure was only 46 percent.

The findings also suggested that the gap between rich and poor households had increased more significantly since 1991 than the OECD studies had indicated.

The data came from the Federal Office of Statistics and Berlin's Institute for Economic Research's Socio-Economic Panel which carries out statistical research of households.

Ways to tackle child poverty

Bertelsmann Foundation Executive Board member Dr Jörg Dräger on Wednesday called for a fundamental re-thinking of the system of child benefits and allowances which had had little impact on families' welfare in the past. He said it was necessary to focus financial support on low-income families.

Katarina Barley who served as Federal Minister of Family Affairs in the previous government described child poverty as "one of the most pressing problems in our country." Single parents and families on low incomes should be helped more, she said. The SPD politician also called for a reform of payments for children, for free day care nurseries and a legal entitlement to full-time care for primary school children.

Katrin Göring-Eckardt of the Greens party called for "comprehensive solutions" for child poverty which she said hinders childrens' opportunities for later in their lives.

The Left party called for an increase in the minimum wage to tackle what it called "parental poverty."

The German Children's Fund (Kinderhilfswerk) called for a better distribution of funds available due to the good economic situation and to guarantee a subsistence level for children regardless of the financial means of their families.

Protestant church charity Diakonie Deutschland said the study called for a reconsideration of government policies towards families. In addition to a basic payment for each child there should be further help such as a housing allowance or funds for school supplies.

jm/aw (dpa, KNA)

Being poor in Germany