This chapter analyses poverty and the family in a European context. It defines commonly used measures of poverty, and introduces behavioural, structural, and political explanations for poverty. Although several family-related factors, such as number of children, single parenthood, and number of earners, are determinants of families’ poverty risk, these factors do not perform well in explaining cross-national variation in poverty. The chapter provides an overview of poverty, deprivation, and child poverty rates in Europe based on OECD and Eurostat data. It also distinguishes between active and passive social policy approaches in combating poverty. As employment growth is not a panacea for poverty, redistributive social policy remains important. The chapter outlines the various components of European countries’ child benefit packages, and their impact on reducing child poverty. This kind of comparative research could help countries recognise that child poverty is a concern, and that redistribution is needed to tackle it.
Rense Nieuwenhuis and Laurie C. Maldonado
Single-parent families face unique challenges when it comes to in-work poverty. Without a second caregiver and earner, single parents have to compete with dual-earner couples for their position in the earnings distribution. Facing precarious employment and gendered wage inequality, single-parent families face a high risk of experiencing poverty even when they are working. This chapter presents empirical evidence on in-work poverty and inadequate wages in the policy context of 18 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. The impact of family structure, occupation, regulations of part-time work, paid parental leave, and various redistributive policies are examined. The authors distinguish three distinct patterns of performance in countries’ approaches to in-work poverty among single parents: a balanced approach of ensuring low inequality on the labor market combined with redistribution; an unbalanced approach of combating in-work poverty mostly through redistribution; and an approach in which high inequality on the labor market is compensated with redistributive policies to only a very limited extent. Countries that rely on a balanced approach to reduce inequality in the labor market, with respect to both class and gender, combined with an adequate level of redistribution, seem best situated for a durable reduction of poverty among working single parents.