How do childhood circumstances affect poverty and deprivation as an adult?

The Office for National Statistics has taken a new look at the factors playing out in childhood that affect the long-term achievements of individuals, including educational attainment, income poverty and material deprivation.

The study is part of ongoing focus into the degree to which children born into poor families become poor adults. The results show a strong relationship between the economic status of parents and that of their children when they grow up.

The ONS has found that the level of the father’s education is the biggest influencing factor on children’s future achievements: people are 7.5 times more likely to have a low educational outcome if their father has a low education, compared with that of a highly educated father. A mother’s education is also an influencing factor, but has much less impact: people are around three times more likely to have a low educational outcome if their mother does.

The reasons behind this correlation have previously been explored, including suggestions that aspirations, genetic traits, learning environment and parental health behaviours may have effects.

Other relationships were also investigated by the ONS, for example, between educational outcomes and the number of adults and children living in the household, and the household’s financial situation. The likelihood of a low educational outcome are over one and half times higher for those who grew up in a single adult household compared to households with two adults.

Growing up in a workless household is also a predictor of low educational attainment: those who lived in a workless household at the age of 14 were around 1.5 times as likely to be in poverty as those in a household with one working adult.

Helen Robinson