Policy Brief – ESRI Report: Intergenerational Poverty in Ireland

Policy Brief – ESRI Report: Intergenerational Poverty in Ireland
Early Childhood Ireland Policy Brief

Last week the ESRI published a new report called Intergenerational Poverty in Ireland. This report looks at the persistence of poverty between generations in the Irish context. The motivation for the report is that understanding how strong the association between financial circumstances in childhood and adulthood, including the mechanisms that underpin this relationship, is important for informing policy.

Childhood poverty is associated with a wide range of negative results in later life. These include lower earnings, poorer levels of educational attainment, poorer physical and psychological health and a lower likelihood of family formation.

The Effect of Educational Attainment

One of the findings in the report is that a large proportion of the difference in adult deprivation outcomes for those who endured ‘very bad’ childhood circumstances and those who went through ‘very good’ childhood circumstances can be explained through educational attainment.

The report details how people with higher levels of education tend to have larger incomes which positively impacts their children’s educational attainment. As well as that, parental education may be linked to parents’ investment in their children. Studies have shown that there is a link between education levels and time spent with one’s children. Further research has shown that a high-income family’s capacity to invest in their child’s development is critical to the transferring of advantage.

On the other hand, being raised in a disadvantaged household can negatively impact access to education and educational attainment. Research that used an EU-wide sample found that individuals who grow up in poverty are significantly less likely to attain secondary-level education. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights has noted that even though access to education is almost universally free, the costs of school supplies, learning materials, and transportation can present considerable barriers to education for disadvantaged families.

High-income families also have a greater capacity to spend on additional educational costs. These can include technology, early years and school-age care services, summer camps, private tuition, and other learning opportunities that can enhance the education of their child. These investments may be out of reach for low-income families.

External Activities

The report highlights the growing practice of ‘shadow education’ in Ireland. This refers to families paying for additional assistance with school subjects at primary and secondary levels. Obviously. ‘shadow education’ is more accessible for families with more resources.

Studies have also looked at cultural participation among children in Ireland. They have found that parents from more advantaged backgrounds are more likely to read to their children, take part in creative play and take them on cultural outings. Research has found that children who take part in cultural activities outside of school are more likely to perform better academically.

Intergenerational Patterns

The report details how educational attainment has demonstrated intergenerational persistence. A study on intergenerational patterns of educational attainment across the EU Member States showed a strong degree of persistence regarding children whose parents had high levels of education. Conversely, the persistence of low levels of educational attainment from parent to child was significantly smaller. However, further research has noted that the likelihood of low educational attainment is far greater for those born to parents with low levels of education in comparison to individuals born to parents with high levels of education.

In Ireland, attending higher education is somewhat dependent on social class.  Research has shown that young people from the upper and middle classes in Ireland are almost twice as likely to reach higher education compared to young adults from working-class backgrounds. Interviews have revealed that family and school strongly inform young people’s educational pathways. For those from middle-class families and schools, there was an underlying assumption of progressing to higher education. However, interviews with young people from working-class backgrounds have shown that they carried an informational and resource disadvantage regarding pursuing higher education.

The report finds that educational attainment is a critical mediating factor between poverty in childhood and in adulthood. This makes policies that aim to reduce inequalities in educational outcomes very important. These include policies that allow greater access to high-quality early years education, more supports for the most disadvantaged schools and children, and putting measures in place that enable great equality of access to third-level institutions.

If you have any questions on the Intergenerational Poverty in Ireland report or would like to engage with us, please contact our policy team.

 

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