IFS Working Papers, Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) 01/08
Over the past 20 years the incidence of relative poverty among Britain's children has tripled. These changes are related to increased earnings inequality, growth in the number of single (lone) parent households, and an increased share of households with children with no working adult. The Labour Government has responded by adopting as a policy objective ending child poverty by 2020. Initial steps toward this end include increasing direct financial support to families with children, creating financial incentives for work for parents, adopting more intensive case management for the welfare caseload, and ameliorating the long-term consequences of the deprivation poverty brings. The Working Families' Tax Credit (WFTC) is the centerpiece of the financial support innovations but there is a broader swathe of welfare reforms which has received less attention. Overall, the U.K. system provides more generous support to the lowest-income families than is available in the U.S., and recent reforms have directly reduced child poverty. For most households, the reforms have reduced marginal benefit deduction rates and increased incentives to work. Preliminary evidence suggests the changes have had greatest effect on single parents. Continued progress requires the adoption of a more specific procedure for defining and measuring child poverty.