Child Poverty in New Zealand

Child Poverty in New Zealand

Selected by the New Zealand Listener as one of the best books of 2014

Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple have written the definitive book on child poverty in New Zealand.Dr Russell Wills, Children’s Commissioner

Between 130,000 and 285,000 New Zealand children live in poverty, depending on the measure used. These disturbing figures are widely discussed, yet often poorly understood. If New Zealand does not have ‘third world poverty’, what are these children actually experiencing? Is the real problem not poverty but simply poor parenting? How does New Zealand compare globally and what measures of poverty and hardship are most relevant here? What are the consequences of this poverty for children, their families and society? Can we afford to reduce child poverty and, if we can, how?

Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple look hard at these questions, drawing on available national and international evidence and speaking to an audience across the political spectrum. Their analysis highlights the strong and urgent case for addressing child poverty in New Zealand. Crucially, the book goes beyond illustrating the scale of this challenge, and why it must be addressed, to identifying real options for reducing child poverty. A range of practical and achievable policies is presented, alongside candid discussion of their strengths and limitations. These proposals for improving the lives of disadvantaged children deserve wide public debate and make this a vitally important book for all New Zealanders.

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Table of contents

Introduction: Setting the scene

Part I: Why child poverty matters
1 What is child poverty?
2 Why child poverty should be addressed
3 Myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings

Part II: How best to reduce child poverty
4 Finding solutions – the big issues
5 Incentivising action on child poverty
6 Reform of the tax and benefit system
7 The active employment system
8 Reforming child support

Part III: Mitigating the impacts of child poverty
9 Housing and child poverty
10 Education and child poverty
11 Helping poor families function better

12 Investing for the future


Print publication:
Ebook publication: Jun 2014
Pages: 296
RRP: $49.99
ISBN: 9781927247860
ISTC: A02201300000618B
DOI: 10.7810/9781927247860

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'What child poverty campaigners in the UK could learn from New Zealand', Max Rashbrooke, The Guardian, 8 July 2015

'Children's money worries go unheard', Rob Stock, Sunday Star Times, 31 May 2015

Jonathan Boston talks to Nelson Mail’s Stacey Knott about potential solutions to child poverty

'Poverty is here but it can be fixed', Jonathan Boston in the NZ Herald

'Lift super age 'to beat child poverty', the Sunday Star Times

'Medics frustrated by child poverty levels', NZ Doctor

Radio NZ's Sunday Programme aired a segment on the issue of child poverty, listen here

Read Simon Chapple and Jonathan Boston's feature on child poverty in the Listener

Simon and Jonathan's article on 'Child support that works' in the latest issue of the Listener

Jonathan Boston recently spoke with Radio New Zealand's Morning Report

Listen to Simon Chapple speak on Radio Waatea

Watch Jonathan Boston on TV3's The Nation and on TV3 News

Read the Booksellers NZ review, by Gordon Findlay

Read an Otago Daily Times editorial on the issue, by Bruce Munro

Watch Jonathan Boston on Face Television, Sky Channel 83

Jonathan Boston was on Radio NZ's 'The Panel'. To listen, click here and skip forward to 16 mins, 52 seconds

Jonathan Boston was interviewed by NewstalkZB, click here to read


Visit Jonathan and Simon’s new blog that accompanies their book:


[An] exhaustive analysis of the scale, complexity and damage of child poverty, and the myriad ways we could tackle it … Boston and Chapple reveal [our failures] with scholarly and clinical precision … Above all, they offer a wealth of research, analysis, recommendations and ethical reasons for why and how we can do right by our children. Rod Oram, New Zealand Books

Overall, the book provides one of the most detailed, objective, and accessible analyses of child poverty in New Zealand that I have come across ... I appreciated the significant investment that the authors have made in presenting a well-articulated and well-researched overview of child poverty, and the comprehensive range of practical and workable recommendations and solutions. Dr Ellen Nicholson (AUT University), OT Insight

Obviously Child Poverty in New Zealand has been a persuasive book, and I really need to read and review it here. Matt Nolan, TVHE

Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple's new book is a useful summary of the state of child poverty in New Zealand and some of the potential solutions. The language used is straightforward, and tables, graphs and a helpful glossary make the book accessible ... Public debate needs to be informed. This book provides a solid base for that debate.Dr Russell Wills, Bay Buzz

With this being an election year, this is a timely publication for those of us interested in social policy. It provides well-grounded information facilitating meaningful engagement with our politicians and political parties. One would be hard pressed to find better social policy analysis.Marlene Ware, Scoop Review of Books

Overall, Child Poverty in New Zealand is a well-written, thorough analysis of the issues and deserves to be widely read … Hopefully Boston and Chapple’s work will help move us collectively beyond debating whether to invest more in reducing child poverty on to how best to do so. Michael Fletcher, Journal of the Sociological Association of Aotearoa/New Zealand

It is thoroughly researched and carefully argued … The three major themes are clearly outlined on the opening page: 'Why child poverty matters… how best to reduce child poverty… and mitigating the impacts of child poverty'. Aware of the political element that bedevils the topic, they provide solutions that appeal to both centre-left and centre-right, with a focus on 'practical, cost-effective and achievable policy changes'. All those aims are achieved in the pages that follow.North & South

Child Poverty in New Zealand by Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple is a must read.Campbell Roberts, Founder and Director of the Salvation Army's Social Policy Research and Parliamentary Affairs Unit

Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple have written the definitive book on child poverty in New Zealand. The book is impressive and comprehensive. The authors based their work on working papers that underpinned the report from the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty (which they both contributed to, Jonathan as a co-chair and Simon as a member of the secretariat), so the emphasis is on solutions. Like the report, solutions cover a wide range of areas and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. While the emphasis is on public policy solutions, there are opportunities for communities, business, philanthropy and local government. The arguments for each solution are clearly described and an attempt has been made wherever possible to discuss costs and benefits. It is extensively referenced and indexed, and benefitted from input from international and local experts. I found Jonathan’s and Simon’s style easy to read. It’ll take you a couple of nights to get through but the effort is rewarded. I encourage you to attend one of the launches if you can and to buy the book for your own collection or your institution library.Dr Russell Wills, Children’s Commissioner

Boston and Chapple have provided a remarkably thorough and fair-minded portrait of child poverty in New Zealand, as well as an evaluation of policy options for its alleviation. This is social policy analysis at its best.Greg Duncan, Distinguished Professor, Department of Education, University of California, Irvine

This well argued and accessible book on child poverty speaks not only to New Zealanders but to concerned citizens and policy makers in other countries. Although the data are specific to New Zealand, the authors draw on poverty research from around the world, debunk common misconceptions and myths about child poverty, and present arguments for reducing child policy that are both principled and broadly applicable. The authors make a compelling case that child poverty matters – wherever it occurs – and that policies can and should be pursued to reduce it.Helen F. Ladd, Edgar Thompson Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics, Duke University

When I came across Jonathon Boston and Simon Chapple’s Child Poverty in New Zealand recently, I pondered why this ‘isn’t’ an issue for LGBT politics. But could that also be an issue for some same-sex led families? ... indispensable reading for welfare rights, antipoverty and social justice activists.Red Queen,