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Child Poverty and Children’s Subjective Well-Being

Abstract

This article examines the relationship between child poverty and children’s subjective well-being on the range of domains identified by Rees et al. (2010) in the Good Childhood Index. Data are taken from a school-based survey of children in England. Child poverty is measured using a child-derived index of material deprivation (proposed by Main and Bradshaw in Child Indicators Research 5(3): 503–521, 2012) and indicators of children living in households likely to qualify for minimum income benefits. After a review of relevant literature to provide background to the study, the relationship between material deprivation, qualification for minimum income benefits and various domains of children’s subjective well-being are examined. Finally, a more detailed analysis is performed on the relationship between poverty and children’s subjective well-being in the domains of family and choice, as relationships were found to be strongest in these domains. Findings show that poverty is an important predictor of subjective well-being and that the child-derived index is more successful than household qualification for minimum income benefits in explaining variation in Rees et al’s (2010) Good Childhood Index domains. This lends support to Cummins’s (Journal of Happiness Studies 1(2):133–158, 2000) argument that the relationship between income and subjective well-being exists but is confounded by mediating factors. The domains in which the association to material deprivation is especially strong – family and choice - are identified by Rees et al. (2010) as amongst the most strongly associated with overall subjective well-being.

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Notes

  1. For example subjective well-being is one of the dimensions of child well-being reported in UNICEF’s Report Card 11 (Adamson 2013; see also Bradshaw et al 2013 and Martorano et al 2013)

  2. For example the Children’s Society well-being research programme – for more information see http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/well-being, which draws on and develops the qualitative work undertaken with children reported by Layard and Dunn (2009)

  3. Statistical notation concerning significance levels are used throughout, where * indicates significance at the <0.05 level, and ** indicates significance at the <0.001 level.

  4. It should be noted that whilst happiness in the domain of home was associated with a greater drop in mean subjective well-being scores in the bivariate analysis presented in Table 1, the strength of this association was substantially reduced in the regression analysis presented in Table 2, whilst associations in the family and choice domains remained stronger.

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Correspondence to Gill Main.

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Main, G. Child Poverty and Children’s Subjective Well-Being. Child Ind Res 7, 451–472 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-014-9237-7

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Keywords

  • Children
  • Subjective well-being
  • Poverty
  • Material deprivation
  • Child-derived