Children more likely to break out of poverty when they catch up on language deficits
Children from poor families have a better chance of escaping poverty mainly by catching up on language issues, and by being well nourished and eating healthier food so that they can perform better, said researcher Stella Hoff from the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP). Earlier on Thursday, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reported that most children from poor families manage to rise past their parents' poverty.
Of the children who grew up in a poor family in 1995, about 9.6 percent were still at risk of poverty 25 years later. This means that more than nine out of ten children did not have a low income like their parents. It is generally more difficult for children from families that recently immigrated to the Netherlands to move up the income ladder. According to Hoff, children in poor families with foreign parents have language problems more often. This results in them falling behind at a young age.
Childcare can help get them caught up, Hoff said. "If they only sit at home with parents who also speak the language poorly themselves, they will go to primary school with a language deficit. Much is accomplished with regard to language in childcare." She gave the example that children are more likely to improve their knowledge of the Dutch language by singing Dutch songs.
The government is working on transitioning the childcare system, in which childcare will become almost free for all working parents. The new system should come into effect starting in 2025.
Children in lower income families often also have more health-related issues because unhealthy food is cheaper than vegetables, she said as another example. The Cabinet wants to counter this by getting rid of the value added tax on fruit and vegetables from 2024.
Some children from poor families are forced to skip breakfast because there is not enough money to cover the expense. According to the researcher, a healthy breakfast served in schools can be especially useful for poorer children. "When hungry, children cannot properly concentrate during school. Wholemeal sandwiches and lunch help [them] to keep going for longer. Better health leads to better performance." Better performance then ensures that young people continue to study, and follow post-secondary education in higher vocational institutions, applied sciences universities, and research universities, Hoff said.
Peter Hein van Mulligen, chief economist at the CBS, said that continuing to study and finding a job is the most important way to break out of poverty. "A job is the best way out of poverty. Most people who remain poor as adults are unemployed or disabled."
Reporting by ANP