Research, Reviews, & Updates

The ESPC provides research, reviews, and updates on a range of social issues

Report by Matthew Lindquist and Gabriella Sjogren Lindquist, Swedish Institute for Social Research, 2008.
Reviewed by Cheryl Melney in February 2009 Research Update

Sweden is well-known internationally for being a forerunner in progressive and comprehensive social policy. That is why you might find it interesting to read this evaluation of child poverty in Sweden published by Stockholm University. In this paper, authors Matthew J. Lindquist and Gabriella Sjogren Lindquist acknowledge Sweden’s success in combating child poverty, but also attempt to turn a critical eye towards Swedish child poverty intervention programs.

The authors question the reasons for Sweden’s low levels of child poverty. They examine three different approaches to combating child poverty: low unemployment and higher low-end wages; Sweden’s progressive tax system; and a variety of government transfers. Through their research, the authors find that child poverty is being addressed most significantly by government financial transfers to parents. The authors agree that this is not ideal, and that Sweden needs to further develop the other two approaches to fighting child poverty. They also find that child poverty is the most prevalent when children are in their earliest years, due to several reasons which the authors go on to explain. The writers suggest that this trend indicates the needs to focus anti-poverty strategies especially at young children. 

This paper is important to Canadians working on child poverty issues for several reasons. It notes that, compared to many European countries, Canada and the United States have the highest numbers of children living in poverty. Despite many commitments and initiatives from Canada’s social policy leaders and creators, Canada still lags behind peer countries when it comes to addressing child poverty issues. 

This report shows us some good examples of how to address child poverty through government transfers. One very interesting Swedish policy harmonizes child support payments so that regardless of their former spouse’s income, all single parents receive the same amount of monthly child support. Low incomes families with children can apply for housing subsidies, and daycare is also heavily subsidized. The writers offer many more examples of Sweden’s government transfers within the paper. It also shows us some shortfalls about relying solely on government transfers, and gives ideas about other ways to fight child poverty. Lastly, this paper highlights different risk factors that often increase the likelihood of child poverty, and gives some suggestion to how these can be addressed. If you are interested in child poverty issues in Canada, this paper will be of interest to you.