Education is key to breaking the link between childhood poverty and poverty and material deprivation later in life, according to a new study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ERSI).
Data from 2019 shows that the likelihood of deprivation in adulthood was 35 percentage points higher among people who grew up in poverty compared to people who grew up in “very good” economic conditions, the report said.
Irish and EU data from 2005, 2011 and 2019 were analyzed by ESRI for a report funded by Pobal, a government body involved in promoting social inclusion and equality. The analysis showed that the influence of poverty among children becomes less pronounced with age, but persists even for people in their 50s.
“Childhood poverty is associated with lower educational attainment and poorer employment prospects,” according to the report. “Policies that seek to reduce persistent inequalities in educational outcomes, from early childhood to higher education, are essential. This includes access to high-quality early education, additional support for the most disadvantaged schools and children, and measures to ensure greater equal access to third-level institutions.”
More than a quarter of the link between child poverty and adult deprivation is due to education, followed by low employment rates and disability and poor health.
The impact of employment status on intergenerational poverty, the report said, highlighted the importance of education and labor market support, particularly for those at greater risk of unemployment.
“Measures to reduce the large inequalities in labor market opportunities for disabled people are also identified as a means of addressing intergenerational poverty.”
The study found that in 2011 and 2019, the proportion of Irish survey respondents experiencing childhood poverty was the same as the EU-27 average: 13 per cent in 2011 and 9 per cent in 2019.
The proportion of people in the EU-27 who experienced childhood poverty and continued to experience deprivation in adulthood fell from 33 per cent to 25 per cent in the period 2011 to 2019. In Ireland, the corresponding drop was from 37 per cent to 31 per cent. cents.
Ireland has one of the lowest levels of inequality among the EU-27 in attainment of third-level education, although the gap remains significant, the report said. In 2019 across the EU-27, 19 percent of those who experienced childhood poverty reached third-level education in adulthood, compared to 44 percent for those who grew up in favorable economic conditions. The respective figures for Ireland were 39 per cent and 71 per cent.
The report notes that previous research in Ireland has highlighted the much higher risk of intergenerational poverty and deprivation among certain groups, including lone parents, those with a disability, those with low levels of education, children, migrants and travellers.