The Latest

Latest child poverty figures

Latest child poverty measures: 2019/20 (reported Feb 2021, corrected Apr 2021

Explanations for all nine current mandated measures can be found at the bottom of this page. See our 23 Feb media release for CPAG's immediate response to the release of this data. Note that Stats NZ released corrected stats in April 2021, which are presented here.

After-housing-costs income poverty (moving line)

In 2019/20 (until March, pre-COVID):

  • Approx. 319,000 children (27.9%) were living in after-housing-costs income poverty, on the inclusive 60% of equivalised household median, moving-line measure
  • Approx 210,500 children (18.4%) were living in income poverty, on the related 50% measure
  • Approx 160,000 children (14.0%) were living in severe income poverty, on the 40% or less measure.

As a comparison, more children in Aotearoa NZ live in severe poverty on this measure (160,000) than live in the country's fifth largest city, Tauranga (152,000).

Material hardship

Material hardship rates for Māori and especially Pacific children are far above national rates overall: nearly one in five Māori children (19.5%) live in material hardship (around 56,000 children), and more than 1 in four Pacific children (26.1% or around 38,000 children) compared to just over 1 in ten children overall (11% or approx 130,000 children). Māori and Pacific severe hardship rates are both more than double the overall rate (4.5% or approx 52,000 children). This over-burdening of tamariki Māori and Pacific children is a reflection of ongoing discrimination and colonisation, and, for tamariki Māori, ongoing breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The material hardship rates for disabled children, and children in households which have at least one disabled member, is nearly 1 in 5 (20.4% for each group). Disabled children have double the rate of severe material hardship to non-disabled children (8.6% and 4.1% respectively), while children in households with a disabled member have over three times the rate of severe material hardship to children in a non-disabled household (8.9% and 2.7% respectively).

Over half (54%) of the children in Aotearoa NZ who live in material hardship live in a household which has at least one disabled member, indicating gross (and avoidable) inequities.  

The material hardship measure is one of the three primary measures against which governments have to set targets. The drop between 2018/19 and 2019/20 from 13.2% to 11.3% is statistically significant, which means we can be sure it really happened. This is good news, although there's still a long way to go before material hardship for children is eliminated.

Before Housing Costs income poverty (moving line) 

In 2019/20 (until March, pre-COVID):

  • Approx. 255,000 children (22.3%) were living in before-housing-costs income poverty, on the inclusive 60% of equivalised household median, moving-line measure
  • Approx 158,000 children (13.8%) were living in income poverty, on the related 50% measure (a primary poverty measure against which governments must set targets)

Tamariki Māori, Pacific children and Middle Eastern, Latin American & African children are more likely than children overall to live in before-housing-cost poverty on the primary 50% measure. Māori rates are 17.1% and 29.9% respectively; the national averages are 13.8% and 22.3% respectively. Rates for Pacific children (19.1% & 30.9%), and Middle Eastern, Latin American & African children (17.9% & 38.7%) are even higher (Note: MELAA rates have wide margins of error). This over-burdening of tamariki Māori and ethnic minorities is a reflection of ongoing discrimination and colonisation, and, for tamariki Māori, ongoing breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Fixed line measure of income poverty

The fixed-line measure of income poverty shows a reasonably steady lowering of child poverty rates from approximately 31% in 2010/11 to approximately 18.4% in 2019/20. In times of economic growth where median incomes are rising, fixed-line measures will show more progress (or less retrogresssion) in lowering child poverty than moving-line measures. Fixed-line reduction targets are a "backstop for preventing deterioration" whereas moving-line targets are a "target for progress": "reducing poverty measured by a fixed line is a minimum test of progress during growth, but during periods of economic decline it sets an important backstop." (Corak, 2005, Unicef Innocenti working paper, emphasis added. For information re the technical differences between moving and fixed line measures, see explanation below and StatsNZ, "Measuring Child Poverty: Fixed Line Measure"). This is a primary measure, on which successive governments must set targets.

Mixed measure

The percentage of children included in both income poverty and material hardship reduced over the two years to March 2020, from approx 8.8% to 6.6%.

Background

In order to understand the depth and breadth of child poverty:

  • StatsNZ is mandated under the Child Poverty Reduction Act 2018 to report on nine separate measures (all graphed above). They report by ethnicity, region and disability status.
  • Successive governments are mandated to set 3-year and 10-year targets against three of those measures.
  • New statistics are usually reported in February, based on the Household Economic Survey for the previous June year (the statistics reported reflect two years of income data, as respondents are asked about their income during the previous 12 months, no matter when in the data collection period they are asked)

It is important to see the latest statistics in their historical context, as presented in the graphs above:

  • Any indicated recent annual changes should be treated with caution, due to (unavoidable) sample errors, and regular updating of previously reported figures.
  • Any and all annual changes should be seen within their historical context as some measures are more likely to move than others due to the way they are calculated.  

The summary table below provides the latest figures for these measures for the year ending June 2020.*

*Note that data was not collected between March and June 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdown. As a result, data for this year only reflects the nine months prior to March 2020.

Explanation of measures:

BHC refers to the median equivalised disposable household income before-housing costs while AHC refers to the median equivalised disposable household income after-housing-costs. For instance, AHC 40 refers to the number of children living in households with less than 40 percent of the median equivalised disposable household income after-housing-costs.

  • Disposable household income is the total income for all household members 15 and older, plus tax credits, less ACC levy and tax payable. This figure is equivalised, meaning that income is adjusted according to household size.
  • Housing costs include expenditure on mortgage payments, rent payments, property rates payments and property insurance. The Government reports on household income both before and after housing costs have been deducted, giving an indication of the impact of housing costs on child poverty rates.

The percentage of children living in household with less than 50 percent of the median equivalised disposable household income after-housing-costs (AHC 50) measure is reported as both a fixed-line and a moving-line measure.

  • Fixed-line measures set an income threshold for a particular ‘base’ year (in this case, the financial year 2017/18), while adjusting for inflation. This measure is particularly useful during a recession. As unemployment increases, moving line measures may give the impression that child poverty is improving, when average incomes are simply decreasing.
  • All other measures are moving-line. They calculate a household’s current income according to the current median for all households.

The Government also reports on the number of children living in material hardship and severe material hardship. These measures use the DEP-17 index, which includes questions about an enforced lack of essentials such as food, bills and doctors visits.

  • A household is deemed to be in material hardship if it scores six or more lacks from the 17 items.
  • A household is defined as being in severe material hardship if it scores nine or more lacks from the 17 items.

Data retrieved from Stats NZ 

URL for StatsNZ 2020 stats: https://www.stats.govt.nz/information-releases/child-poverty-statistics-year-ended-june-2020