Social inclusion and exclusion among Australia's children: a review of the literature

Children Australia

This paper reviews the literature in three key areas covered by an Australian Research Council grant, 'Social Inclusion and Exclusion among Australia's Children: A Spatial Perspective' (DP 560192). These are the evidence on the position of children in society, more particularly estimates of child poverty in Australia and how these compare with the level of child poverty in other developed countries; the methodological issues of measuring the broader concept of social exclusion and the results from applying this framework in Australia and other developed countries; and finally the Australian and international evidence on the relationship between area of residence and social exclusion. A risk of social exclusion arises when children suffer from multiple disadvantages that make it difficult for them to actively participate in society. The international evidence shows Australia in the middle of the league table on child poverty and that child poverty increased in many OECD countries over the 1990s. While the causes are complex, research suggests that demographic factors such as the age of the parents and family structure, labour market factors including the unemployment rate, and the tax and transfer system are important determinants of the level of child poverty. Children in jobless households, sole parent families and members of minority groups faced the greatest risk of living in poverty. The social exclusion framework examines a broader range of indicators than the more limited focus on household income as a measure of poverty. These include indicators of labour market status, educational attainment, housing status, health and social interaction. The argument for combining this into one summary measure of wellbeing must be traded off against the benefits of presenting more detailed results on individual indicators. The evidence shows that while income is correlated with many of the other indicators of risk of social exclusion, it is far from being perfectly correlated and additional insight can be gained from using a wider range of indicators. The final research area of interest was the relationship between area of residence and social exclusion. While there is some evidence of a neighbourhood effect on outcomes, it appears to be less important than individual and family factors in determining disadvantage. The literature on the position of children in Australia in the social exclusion framework is limited and this paper provides a basis for our further exploration of this area.

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