Fair Shares and Families: Children’s and families’ perspectives on intra-household allocation in the UK

Gill Main

This paper presents early findings from the ‘Fair Shares and Families’ study, which is designed to offer insight into how children participate in decisions and processes of intra-household sharing; how family socio-economic status relates to resource allocation patterns and practices; and how different patterns of resource allocation, along with socio-economic status, relate to children’s and parents’ subjective well-being. Child poverty is a well-established predictor of poor outcomes during childhood and for the adults children become. It is also high on policy agendas both nationally within the UK, and internationally. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of debate about how best to define and measure child poverty. The most common method of measuring child poverty in rich countries is based on household income, which assumes that resources are equitably shared within households – despite a wealth of research evidence that within households, women often lose out to men, and children’s main carers prioritise children’s needs over their own. Similarly complex are the links between child poverty and subjective well-being – income-based measures of child poverty tend to find limited associations, but when children’s own perceptions of their needs are included in measures of poverty and material well-being, much stronger associations are found. However, despite these findings children’s voices are almost entirely absent from most conceptions and measures of child poverty; and they are routinely treated as adjuncts to adults and a net drain on household resources. The purpose of the ‘Fair Shares and Families’ project is to contribute to the small but growing body of literature which places children’s perceptions of their needs and experiences at the centre of understandings of child poverty, and attempts to conceptualise and measure child poverty in a way which incorporates children’s perspectives.

‘Fair Shares and Families’ is a mixed-methods study drawing on ethnographic research with ten UK families (sampled based on one child aged 10-17, but involving siblings, parents and other relevant people in the research), and on a nationally representative longitudinal survey of 1,000 children aged 10-17 in England. At the time of this seminar, the fieldwork for the ethnographic strand of the research is drawing to a close and data has just been returned for the first wave of the survey. This seminar will report on early findings from the ethnography and preliminary analysis of the survey data.

Gill Main is a University Academic Fellow in Young People and Precarity at the University of Leeds. Her research interests are within the field of child and youth poverty, social exclusion, and wellbeing.

Chair: Professor Peter Saunders, Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney

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