Prepare versus Repair? On Social Investment for Single Parent Families

With the social investment paradigm increasingly present in European social policy making, I am very pleased to announce my newest publication, together with Laurie C. Maldonado. Our article “Prepare versus Repair? Combining Parental Leave and Family Allowances for Social Investment Against Single-Parent Poverty” (.PDF), was published in the Belgian Review of Social Security, in an excellent special issue on child wellbeing. The special issue has contributions by experts including Dominic Richardson, Jonathan Bradshaw, and Gøsta Esping-Andersen.

From our contribution:

The position of single-parent families directly relates to one of the major critiques of the social investment strategy. Despite efforts to improve employment and make work pay to prevent poverty, European welfare states have witnessed disappointing trends in poverty (Vandenbroucke and Vleminckx, 2011). Cantillon (2011) argued that social investment policies are better suited for work-rich households than work- poor households at the bottom of the income distribution. This critique begs the empirical question of whether a transition to ‘in kind’ social investment policies can be sufficiently effective in improving employment to protect households against poverty, and if reducing transfers has rendered tax-benefit systems inadequate (cf. Nelson, 2011). We examine this below, focusing on family policies. Specifically, we assess whether social investment (reconciliation policies) is a more effective strategy than social protection (family allowances) for single-parent families.

We conclude:

Social investment, by facilitating employment, can be a beneficial strategy to reduce poverty among single-parent families but we argue that this strategy alone is not sufficient. Family allowances, too, reduce poverty. Therefore, in order for welfare states to genuinely invest in single-parent families, we recommend combining strategies that prepare and repair.

The special issue is available online, and access is open to anyone.

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