Media Release 17 Sep 2016
Family First NZ says that latest data just released from the US Census Bureau on income inequality and poverty shows five times as many female-headed families (no husband present) as married-couple families were in poverty in 2015.
“This mirrors the situation in New Zealand,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“The Ministry of Social Development has just released household incomes data which show that ‘sole-parent households with dependent children have the highest income poverty rates of all household types, typically around 60% compared with a population rate of 17%.’ ”
In New Zealand, in 2015, four-times as many single-parent as two-parent family households were in poverty. 57% of single parents living alone were below the poverty threshold compared to just 14% of two-parent households.
“Unfortunately the MSD data makes no differentiation between cohabiting and married parents, but Family First’s recent report, Child Poverty and Family Structure: What is the evidence telling us? analysed New Zealand’s 2013 census data and found married families with children had consistently higher incomes than de facto families with children. This would make the difference between sole parents and married parents even greater, ” says Mr McCoskrie.
This gap contributes significantly to New Zealand’s high rate of child poverty, especially for Maori children. The MSD report states, ‘The higher poverty rate for Maori children reflects the relatively high proportion of Maori children living in sole-parent beneficiary families and households (around 46% of all sole parent beneficiary recipients are Maori).‘
Looking beyond just household incomes, MSD also measures material hardship by surveying items of deprivation, for instance, foregoing basic necessities or living in damp, mouldy houses. Children in sole parent families are 5-8 times more likely to experience severe hardship than those in two-parent households. Interestingly, although incomes differ, the hardship rates are similar whether the sole parent lives in their own or extended household.
“An increase in children growing up in married two-parent families would have a major impact on reducing child poverty in New Zealand, but will policy makers be honest enough to admit it?” asks Mr McCoskrie.