Young ‘face risk of poverty trap’
Poverty in teenage years has had an increasing effect in keeping people poor when they get to middle age, research has suggested.
The study found that a teenager in a poor family in the 1970s was twice as likely to be poor later on in life. But poor teenagers in the 1980s were four times more likely than their counterparts to still be poor when they became adults.
The findings come from research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Two lecturers from the London School of Economics looked at two official surveys of all people born during one week in March 1958 and one week in April 1970. Their research examined questionnaire responses from 5,000 people in each of the two groups, or cohorts, of people.
Doubled chance of poverty
They found that there was a significant persistence of poverty between teenage years and early middle age, and that this link had got stronger for the people born in 1970 compared with those born in 1958. Although poverty at 16 was not the sole factor in deciding poverty later in life, its effect had doubled between the generations.
One of the researchers, Jo Blanden, said: ‘Poverty at 16 has become more important in influencing poverty in middle age, but it’s not the only thing that makes people disadvantaged.’
She pointed out that poverty is just part of a package of other influences, such as poorly educated parents, unemployment and living in a poor neighbourhood, which can cause poverty to persist through life. Blanden also stressed that her study did not reveal if teenage poverty is still having an increased effect in later generations or whether the effect has tailed off.