Inequality Impacted By Family Structure – Report

Media Release 18 October 2016
New research on inequality from the New Zealand Initiative confirms earlier research from Family First on child poverty which found that a major culprit – if not the major culprit – is family malformation, that is, a lack of two married committed parents.

The reportInequality Paradox: Why inequality matters even though it has barely changed examines the factors that caused the sharp increase in inequality between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties, and references New Zealand Treasury research which found, “…the main factors which contributed to the change in inequality were changes in family and household structure (primarily a pronounced drop in the fraction of two parent households and a rise in the fraction of sole parent households), and changes in the socio-demographic attributes of households.” The report also shows that inequality has not increased over the past decade though rising housing costs are contributing to hardship for low income families.

The report also references Family First’s recent report (“Child Poverty and Family Structure: What is the evidence telling us?”) that showed the proportion of children born to married couples fell from 95% to 53% between 1961 and 2015. For Maori, 72% of births were to married parents in 1968; by 2015 the proportion had fallen to just 21%.

“Single-parent families make up 28% of all families with dependent children. These families are the poorest in New Zealand. 51% of children in poverty live in single-parent families. Single parents have the lowest home ownership rates and the highest debt ratios,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The New Zealand Initiative agrees with our concerns. The report says, “Household formation and structure matters. On the evidence, perhaps half the increase in household disposable income inequality from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s reflects this.”

“Despite marriage being the best protector against child poverty and inequality, it has become politically unfashionable – some argue insensitive – to express such a view. But that view is starting to gain traction through the overwhelming evidence,” says Mr McCoskrie.

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