Women and children are hardest hit after divorce

According to a comprehensive study into how parents fare during the five years following their divorce, it is mothers and children who see the greatest fall in their living standards in comparison to fathers.

The study, carried out by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, also discovered that, after couples with grown-up children split up, just under a third of women in this category ended up living in relative poverty; a much higher proportion compared to men.

This study also shows that 19% of children fall into poverty after their parents separate and Mike Brewer, a professor of economics at the University of Essex who conducted the study with Dr Alita Nandi, said: “Women continue to see living standards fall by more after separation than men, especially when children are involved, but even for couples with no children. Mothers and children from high-income families see especially large drops in living standards, because the loss of the man’s earnings is in no way compensated for by higher income from alimony, child maintenance, benefits and tax credits, and having fewer mouths to feed.”

Commenting on the results of the study, Fiona Weir, the chief executive of the charity which supports single parents, Gingerbread, said: “This research chimes with what many of the single parents we work with tell us every day: that they are really struggling to pay essential bills and put food on the table. The findings underline how vital it is to get child maintenance flowing to single-parent families.”

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the study looked at data from British Household Panel Survey from between 1991 and 2008 which found that life satisfaction and mental health diminished for men and women during their divorce or separation but was quick to return to their pre-split level.

The issue of the fall-out that can arise as a result of family breakdown has become a political issue as the government decides whether it could be included as a factor when calculating child poverty. A child is living in poverty if the income of their household is under 60% of the average age; based on this calculation, in 2011 2.3 million children could be said to be living in poverty in the UK.


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