This article examines the causes of child poverty in New Zealand and how child poverty rates might be reduced.
New Zealand has tolerated significant levels of relative child poverty for more than two decades. For a country which once prided itself on being comparatively egalitarian and, more particularly, on being a great place to bring up children, this is surprising. It is also concerning. Child poverty imposes many long-term costs. This is especially the case, according to the available evidence, when poverty occurs during early childhood and when it is severe and/or persistent. These costs afflict not only the children directly exposed to poverty (e.g. in the form of lower educational achievement, reduced lifetime earnings and poorer health outcomes), but also society as a whole. The wider social and economic costs include increased health care costs, lower productivity growth and higher rates of criminal offending. In short, the empirical evidence suggests that substantial rates of child poverty reduce a nation’s prosperity. Hence, on economic grounds alone there is a case for seeking lower child poverty rates. Other considerations, such as the pursuit of fair opportunities for all children, make such a goal even more compelling.