Exploring the disability–poverty nexus in children: a cross-national comparative analysis in Europe

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Julie Vinck KU Leuven, Belgium

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By ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, states committed themselves to ensure an adequate standard of living and social protection to all persons with disabilities, including children. Yet, prior studies showed that children with disabilities are more likely to grow up poor. Existing research has mainly focused on single-country case studies or comparative analyses for low- and middle-income countries. Due to the lack of good quality data, comparative studies on poverty outcomes, its determinants and the poverty-reducing role of social transfers among children with disabilities in high-income countries are largely missing. This article addresses these gaps using the 2017 EU-SILC cross-sectional survey. The results show great differences across Europe in the prevalence of childhood disability, the poverty outcomes of children with disabilities and the poverty-reducing effectiveness of social transfers for them. In only a third of European countries are children with disabilities more likely to live in poor households than children without disabilities. Countries that perform weakly for children without disabilities also perform weakly for children with disabilities. Moreover, social transfers achieve more for children with disabilities in more than half of European countries. The family’s employment participation and social background have the expected poverty-reducing effects for children with disabilities and children without disabilities, though the strength of some effects differs between the two groups within certain geographical regions. However, the income-based poverty indicator disregards the higher costs families with children with disabilities face which underestimates their poverty risk. More research is needed on which poverty indicator accurately reflects the real living standards of children with disabilities.

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Julie Vinck KU Leuven, Belgium

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