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Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage

The intergenerational reach of poverty and disadvantage is the topic of a recent release from the CSO (16th December 2020). This release found that those who had experienced financial or educational disadvantage in their teens (that is, having grown up in disadvantaged households) were more likely to be at risk of poverty or experiencing enforced deprivation than their wealthier peers.

A recent Report from the CSO (16th December 2020) focused on the intergenerational transmission of disadvantages based on the 2019 SILC. Focusing on people aged 25 to 59 and their life situation when they were 14 years old.

Financial Disadvantage

The Report notes that financial disadvantage in childhood seems to continue through to adulthood. Respondents who replied that the financial situation in their teenage home as being bad were less likely to be working or have attained third level education as an adult. Of those teenagers who lived in households experiencing financial disadvantage, 18.2 per cent were now, as adults, living at risk of poverty and 39 per cent experienced enforced deprivation. This compares with those who lived in more financially secure homes as teenagers, where, as adults, 8.4 per cent were living at risk of poverty and 10.1 per cent experienced enforced deprivation.

Educational Attainment

The survey also examined the link between the level of educational attainment of both the parent and child. More than three in four (77.9 per cent) of the respondents whose parents achieved a third level qualification had done likewise. Whereas, three in ten (30.6 per cent) of those whose parents finished their education at lower secondary level also left school at the same point.

Education and Poverty

Education is linked with earnings and earnings potential, and therefore linked to the risk of poverty. Of those whose parents ceased their education at lower secondary level, 16.2 per cent were are risk of poverty as adults compared with 6.2 per cent of adults whose parents completed third level. Respondents who had working parents at age 14 were also more likely themselves to be in employment, whereas 18.2 per cent were currently without paid employment. This compares with those who grew up in households with no working parents, with 41.7 per cent without paid employment as adults.

The impact of education, across all ages groups cannot be underestimated and particularly for those in disadvantaged groups. The longer a person remains in the educational system the more likely they are to be in employment. Educational level attained is one of the most important individual factors in reducing the risk of poverty for adults and as this educational level seems to be linked across generations, it is important for reducing child and household poverty.

The results of the CSO release is supported by the OECD PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) study, which found that the children of parents with low levels of education have significantly lower proficiency than those whose parents have higher levels of education, continuing the cycle of disadvantage.1

This inter-generational transmission of low levels of skills and educational qualifications to children therefore has an impact on their financial wellbeing when they reach adulthood.

High rates of poverty and income inequality have been the norm in Irish society for some time. They are problems that require greater attention than they currently receive, but tackling these problems effectively is a multifaceted task. It requires action on many fronts, not only in education, but healthcare, accommodation and employment to name but a few. If we are to tackle poverty and inequality, we need to move towards a new Social Contract between the citizen and the State. Social Justice Ireland has recently published our Building a New Social Contract – Policy Recommendations which includes over 80 policy recommendations that would result in a more equitable and sustainable Social Contract.

It is time to break the cycle of poverty and build a new Social Contract.

1http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/Ireland.pdf

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