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Immigrant Child Poverty – The Achilles Heel of the Scandinavian Welfare State

Measurement of Poverty, Deprivation, and Economic Mobility

ISBN: 978-1-78560-387-7, eISBN: 978-1-78560-386-0

ISSN: 1049-2585

Publication date: 26 August 2015


Immigrant and native child poverty in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden 1993–2001 is studied using large sets of panel data. While native children face yearly poverty risks of less than 10 percent in all three countries and for all years studied the increasing proportion of immigrant children with an origin in middle- and low-income countries have poverty risks that vary from 38 up to as much as 58 percent. At the end of the observation period, one third of the poor children in Norway and as high as about a half in Denmark and in Sweden are of immigrant origin. The strong overrepresentation of immigrant children from low- and middle-income countries when measured in yearly data is also found when applying a longer accounting period for poverty measurement. We find that child poverty rates are generally high shortly after arrival to the new country and typically decrease with years since immigration. Multivariate analysis shows that parents years since immigration and education affect risks of the number of periods in persistent poverty. While a native child is very unlikely to spend nine years in poverty, the corresponding risk for a child to a newly arrived immigrant was found to be far from negligible. Much of the pattern is similar across the three countries but there are also some notable differences.




Comments and suggestions from a reviewer are gratefully acknowledged. We thank Kathleen S. Short, Stephen Jenkins, Brian Nolan, and Heike Solga for useful comments to earlier versions of the paper. Henrik Nørholm and Niels Skipper have been very efficient research assistants.


Galloway, T.A., Gustafsson, B., Pedersen, P.J. and Österberg, T. (2015), "Immigrant Child Poverty – The Achilles Heel of the Scandinavian Welfare State", Measurement of Poverty, Deprivation, and Economic Mobility (Research on Economic Inequality, Vol. 23), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 185-219.



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