Measuring child poverty may not seem like a top priority when there remains so much practical, long-term work to be done to tackle extreme poverty. Nor, at first glance, does form filling, data collection and number processing seem like a particularly beneficial or effective way to reduce child poverty. Yet such research and analysis, undertaken in an effective manner, will produce data which can lead to evidence backed policy formulation and programme advancement. These in turn can open up opportunities to raise awareness of child poverty and ultimately generate financial backing to address the situation long term. In short, without officially endorsed measurement of domestic circumstances across a country, it is unlikely that policy makers and associated stakeholders will feel empowered to devise programmes to bring about widespread, meaningful change.
What does measurement of child poverty provide?
Assessing the various forms of child poverty within a country can produce vital data and information about its nature and the scale of the challenges to be tackled. Measurements can inform how child poverty integrates with the concept of poverty in general, how widespread it is, how it is affected by topography, and how it affects cultural communities in differing ways. One example is the way illness and disease impact on children who live in poverty. UNICEF aims to measure and generate data relating to a number of factors which affect children who live in poverty. This will not only help to raise the profile of the issue, but also shed light on the best ways to establish a national pathway to tackle child poverty. As a consequence, this will continue to focus policy and development planning, enabling resources and initiatives to be better targeted.
The causal angle
Generated data which relates to child poverty should not simply shed light on the actual circumstances across a country. It should also offer insight into the causes. These may already be well known, but often causes are simply assumed. Whatever reasons are suggested or highlighted by assessment and analysis will enable better informed planning and policy implementation. So, data is multi-dimensional, not simply descriptive.
Observing trends and gaining insight
Measuring child poverty also enables experts and politicians to understand whether trends are changing and, if so, to what extent they are increasing or decreasing. This means that retrospective research is vital to determine just how beneficial recent initiatives and ongoing programmes are and are likely to be in the immediate future. An interesting example could aim to review the impact of a recent or ongoing campaign. For instance, measuring child poverty over time means that it will be possible to conclude whether financial input to programmes which focus on education, healthcare and sanitation are benefitting the poorest in society, or whether in fact they are helping children who are already proportionally better off.
One holistic benefit of policy review
If households are targeted by research and subsequent legislation, does that mean that street children and homeless families would not benefit? For instance, if cash transfers were considered to be a potential short-term solution, how might they best be implemented when many people, and children in particular, do not have bank accounts? Measuring child poverty trends and collecting accurate data from a completely inclusive cross section of society will ensure that policies and proposed programmes are validated and potentially enhanced.
Reckoning the scale and contexts of child poverty through comparison-led research
The results of measuring child poverty also empower data analysts and politicians to compare regional circumstances as well as make international comparisons. Basically, analysis informs on the scale of child poverty. Within the overarching context of poverty, it also validates comparisons with adult poverty and other discrete groups within communities and across society as a whole. For instance, gender-based comparisons should prove insightful, establishing evidence for girls’ personal circumstances, for example, in educational contexts or in domestic roles.
It is a sad fact that child poverty is often higher than any other group. Research and measurement also confirm where child poverty is at its highest, geographically speaking, and it may be possible to pinpoint whether there are certain groups of young people who are more vulnerable to child poverty and its effects. It can be used to predict trends and allow preventative measures to be addressed.
Is data just retrospectively useful?
Simulations are an important, forward looking statistical tool. They help to estimate the potential benefit of a proposed policy. Analysis of likely costs and overall benefits are also key drivers of legislative proposals, shedding light on the potential impact of a campaign on specific communities. Such insight would certainly inform the way in which a new policy could be best designed and rolled out. It would also prompt policy makers to constantly bear in mind the target audience.
How beneficial could data simulations prove to be?
Data simulations could lead to a potentially broad-based policy shift in government circles. Ultimately, they could be instrumental in the formulation and implementation of a fundamental social protection programme. This would likely be introduced in a series of stages. Data projections and subsequent collation would ensure that essential evidence-based feedback could be readily generated and circulated to all stakeholders. This would help to shape the future direction of further planning. Data can be released through the media to society as a whole, opening up an opportunity for a more inclusive endorsement of whatever progress is being made.
The overall benefit
If people across society can see benefits and improvements in the lives of others, then it is likely that they will continue to support further proposals for child poverty reduction. Society as a whole needs to be brought on board and ultimately made a stakeholder in proceedings. The media can play a pivotal role in presenting updates and explaining the ongoing impact. So long as people believe that tackling child poverty will be beneficial to society in general, then political momentum will prompt further collaboration and progress.