Child Poverty in the European Union: the Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis Approach (EU-MODA)


Poverty has serious consequences for children’s well-being as well as for their achievements in adult life. The Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis for the European Union (EU-MODA) compares the living conditions of children across the EU member states. Rooted in the established multidimensional poverty measurement tradition, EU-MODA contributes to it by using the international framework of child rights to inform the construction of indicators and dimensions essential to children’s material well-being, taking into account the needs of children at various stages of their life cycle. The study adds to the literature on monetary child poverty and material deprivation in the EU by analysing several age-specific and rights-based dimensions of child deprivation individually and simultaneously, constructing multidimensional deprivation indices, and studying the overlaps between monetary poverty and multidimensional deprivation. The paper demonstrates the application of the EU-MODA methodology to three diverse countries: Finland, Romania and the United Kingdom. The analysis uses data from the ad hoc material deprivation module of the EU-SILC 2009 because it provides comparable micro-data for EU member states and contains child-specific deprivation indicators.

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  1. 1.

    The Recommendation specifies that this indicator is “under discussion” (European Commission 2013).

  2. 2.

    In 2009, the relative income poverty rate for children under 18 was 13.8 % in Finland, 17.3 % in the UK and 22.4 % in Romania (Eurostat database, last update 16.06.2014). The proportion of children under 18 living in deprived households (using the enforced lack of three out of nine standard items) ranged from 8.2 % in Finland and 13.5 % in the UK to 50.7 % in Romania (Eurostat database, last update 04.06.2014).

  3. 3.

    This is also an argument against using monetary indicators of child poverty: “prioritizing economic welfare through the analysis of consumption and expenditure by adults tells us nothing about the welfare of children dependent on those adults, or about the intra- household distribution of that expenditure” (Feeny and Boyden 2004, p. 7).

  4. 4.

    See Guio (2009) for a discussion of methodological issues involved in constructing the EU material deprivation indicator.

  5. 5.

    A number of questions refer to school-aged children only, while the majority of the items pertain to those between the ages of 1 and 15.

  6. 6.

    These include incapacity to afford: replacing worn-out furniture; to pay for arrears; computer and internet; to keep the home adequately warm; a car.

  7. 7.

    The six dimensions included: basic, consumption, health of the household reference person, neighbourhood environment, housing facilities, and access to public services. See Table 6 in Annex for the list of survey items included in each dimension.

  8. 8.

    CC-MODA results for more than thirty low and middle income countries are available at:

  9. 9.

    Information on the compulsory age of starting school in European countries in 2009 is obtained from the Eurydice network (, last updated April 2013). The compulsory school starting age was: six in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, France, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovak Republic and Spain; five in Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; seven in Bulgaria, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Sweden.

  10. 10.

    Although it would have been preferable to use the minimum statutory school leaving age as the boundary between the middle- and the older age groups, the structure of the EU-SILC does not allow that.

  11. 11.

    The Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations 1989) is used to inform the construction “of a core set of dimensions that are essential to any child’s development irrespective of their country of residence, socio-economic status, or culture” (De Neubourg et al. 2012b, p. 6).

  12. 12.

    It is restricted to children between the age of three and the compulsory school-age because 0 and 2-year-olds may be too young to fully benefit from the educational component of the ECEC systems. ECEC programmes “are normally designed for children from age 3 and include organised learning activities” (UNESCO 2007). Eurostat uses age at survey year to calculate statistics on formal childcare arrangements, rather than the age at the end of the income reference period. This explains the discrepancies between the deprivation rates on the ECEC indicator and the official childcare use statistics published by Eurostat.

  13. 13.

    There is no information about school attendance or school achievement in the EU-SILC. Although there is information about compulsory school enrolment for children up to the age of 12, nearly all attend compulsory school for at least 1 h a week.

  14. 14.

    For the oldest age group, the education dimension is labelled as activity because the end of compulsory schooling varies across the EU, so 17–18-year-olds may be in education, training, work or “not in education, employment or training” (NEET).

  15. 15.

    Guio et al. (2012) also included “one week holiday away from home” among the 13 child-level indicators in addition to five household-level items (of these, “computer” and “internet” are also used in EU-MODA) used to construct their 18-item child deprivation indicator.

  16. 16.

    Note that this is a censored measure: it is calculated only for the children who are deprived based on the chosen cut-off.

  17. 17.

    The share of children in the preschool-age group excluded from the analysis due to having missing values for at least one of the indicators ranges from 1 % in Romania, to 5 % in the UK and 9 % in Finland. However, this is not statistically significantly related to income in Finland or Romania, while in the UK income poor children are over-represented in the study (p < 0.05). In the UK, 1.5 and 5.5 % of income poor and non-poor preschool-age children, respectively, have missing values.

  18. 18.

    In Finland parents can care for children at home until the youngest child’s third birthday (paid parental leave followed by paid homecare leave), which may help explain why many preschool-age children do not use formal childcare.

  19. 19.

    Area of residence (thinly populated vs. intermediate or densely populated); highest level of education of the main carer, usually the mother (tertiary vs upper secondary or lower); migrant status (at least one person in the household born outside the EU vs none); large family (three or more children under 18 vs one or two); tenure status (owned outright or with a mortgage vs. rented or other); number of parents in the household (both vs. one or none); household work intensity, EU definition (adults work at least half of the potential time vs less than half).

  20. 20.

    See for the full EU-MODA results for 15 European countries.

  21. 21.

    Multiple housing problems are defined as suffering from at least one of the following: leaking roof, damp roof/walls/foundation; rot in window frames or floor; there is not enough daylight from windows.


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Correspondence to Yekaterina Chzhen.



Table 6 Indicator deprivation rates for preschool children: alternative definitions (%)

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Chzhen, Y., de Neubourg, C., Plavgo, I. et al. Child Poverty in the European Union: the Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis Approach (EU-MODA). Child Ind Res 9, 335–356 (2016).

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  • Child poverty
  • Child well-being
  • Multidimensional poverty
  • Poverty and deprivation overlap