The impact of child benefits on single mother poverty: Exploring the role of targeting in 15 European countries

Wim Van Lancker*, Joris Ghysels, Bea Cantillon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Single mothers are vulnerable to living in poverty. The question of how to safeguard the economic status of single mothers in a context of increasing dual earnership is a crucial one. In the present study we addressed this issue by investigating the impact of child benefits on the poverty risk of single mothers in 15 european countries. We focused in particular on the design of child benefits and investigated whether targeting towards single mothers was associated with better poverty reduction. In doing so, we combined information on statutory child benefit entitlement with an empirical analysis of poverty reduction using survey data. We found that: (i) both spending effort and targeting are important to explain the effectiveness of child benefits in reducing single mother poverty; (ii) targeting is related to higher levels of poverty reduction independent of spending effort; yet (iii) it matters how targeting is done.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-222
JournalInternational Journal of Social Welfare
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


  • child benefits
  • single mothers
  • poverty
  • targeting
  • universalism
  • welfare state

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