Child and Youth Poverty: Contexts, concepts and consequences

  • Date:
  • Location: University of Leeds - Devonshire Hall, LS6 2EQ


A one-day conference, hosted by the Leeds Centre for Interdisciplinary Childhood and Youth Research

About the Conference

The Leeds Centre for Interdisciplinary Childhood and Youth Research is pleased to announce our inaugural conference which will gather together researchers from multiple disciplines who are all concerned with child and youth poverty.

Child and youth poverty are persistent predictors of negative outcomes, and in recent years of economic crisis and austerity agendas, economic and policy changes have exacerbated both the extent of child and youth poverty, and raised concerns about the impact of poverty on children and young people’s well-being and life chances. While poverty has been a longstanding concern among child and youth scholars, the current global context calls for a wider discussion around how we conceptualise poverty and how, as researchers, we can best examine the subjective experiences of children and young people living in poverty. In our view, this lies in a well- rounded, multidisciplinary view of the contexts, concepts and consequences of child and youth poverty.

The conference call for papers has resulted in a set of papers from a wide range of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives which address topics such as education and youth transitions; crime and youth justice systems; international and comparative approaches to social policy and provision; and multidimensional approaches to understanding poverty. We invite practitioners, students and researchers from across the career stage to join us for the day and have student and unwaged rates available to facilitate this.


Coffee and registration

Welcome and Introduction by Professor Tracy Shildrick

Keynote: ‘Child Poverty: Europe moving backwards’ by Professor Jonathan Bradshaw; introduction by Gill Main

Parallel sessions


Keynote: ‘Youth disadvantage and the new politics of poverty’ by Professor Tracy Shildrick; introduction by Kim Allen

Coffee break

Parallel sessions

Closing reflections: Panel discussion with Kim Allen, Valerie Farnsworth and Gill Main, chaired by Professor Tracy Shildrick

Wine reception sponsored by Policy Press



Parallel Sessions

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Professor Jonathan Bradshaw, University of York: ‘Child poverty: Europe moving backwards’

Abstract: From the mid 1990s to the start of the recession the UK had the biggest reduction in child poverty of any (LIS) country. Most countries in the EU had increases in child poverty and this trend has continued since the recession. One reason for this is that many countries including the UK cut, or did not increase in line with inflation, the social transfers available to families with children. In most countries they became less effective in reducing poverty rates and closing child poverty gaps. This is the opposite of the ambition of the EU 2020 Poverty and Social Exclusion strategy. It was not inevitable – countries made choices to focus cuts on children and protect pensioners. In most countries social protection arrangements for pensioners became more effective and pensioner poverty rates fell.  The keynote will elaborate and support these arguments with mainly comparative data.

Professor Tracy Shildrick, University of Leeds: ‘Youth disadvantage and the new politics of poverty’

Abstract: Youth poverty occupies something of a blind spot in both research and policy discussions. Yet research shows that poverty amongst young people is increasing and transitions to adulthood are becoming more precarious and risky as the traditional key markers of adulthood – particularly in respect of employment and housing – become more difficult for many young people to achieve. It has also been argued that the current younger generation are facing serious disadvantage in comparison to earlier generations, particularly their parent generation. In a period of heightened economic and political turmoil these issues come into ever more sharp relief. This paper draws had three main aims: firstly it outlines some of the key challenges facing young people in the current period; secondly it draws on research data to illustrate the lived experience of growing up in disadvantaged neighbourhoods; and finally the paper draws attention to the some key questions about both inter-generational and intra-generational inequality in a rapidly changing political and economic context.

The conference organisers intend to guest edit a special issue of Policy Press’ Journal of Poverty and Social Justice (JPSJ) based on the conference proceedings. We welcome contributors to discuss the possibility of submitting a full paper following the conference for consideration for the journal.

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Working with the Centre directors, the steering group organising the conference include:

Dr Gill Main

School of Education

My research interests are within the field of child and youth poverty, social exclusion, and well-being. My research on children’s subjective well-being formed part of the international Children’s Worlds study, conducted alongside an international team from fifteen diverse countries. Previously, my research focused on child poverty and social exclusion as part of the UK Poverty and Social Exclusion Study.  I am primarily a quantitative and mixed methods researcher with particular interest in survey design and analysis, and the use of survey and mixed-methods (qualitative and quantitative) research with children.

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Dr Valerie Farnsworth

Leeds Institute of Medical Education

My research focuses on combining social learning theory with sociology of education in order to further critical inquiries into curriculum, policy, educational progression and transitions. I take an interdisciplinary approach to investigating relations between curriculum and knowledge, identity and practice, and political/cultural/social contexts and structures of relations. Most recently I have been investigating the role of space and place in the post-16 education, training and employment considerations of young people. I have worked on a range of longitudinal and mixed-methods research projects including an ESRC-funded project on transitions to higher education in STEM subjects. My expertise is in qualitative research and methods of critical discourse and narrative analysis. I am co-convenor of the BERA Socio-cultural and Cultural-Historical Activity Theory SIG.

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Dr Kim Allen

School of Sociology and Social Policy

My research is located at the intersections of youth studies, sociology, and the cultural studies of education. Broadly my research falls into four key areas: youth transitions, aspirations and inequalities of social class, gender, race and place;  young people’s cultural practices and engagement with celebrity culture; representations of class and gender in popular culture; and inequality and diversity in the creative and cultural industries. I have worked on a range of research projects in these areas including the ESRC-funded ‘Celebrity Culture and Young People’s Classed and Gendered Aspirations’; and a project on young women’s transitions in austerity (British Academy). I sit on the editorial board of Sociological Research Online; British Journal of Sociology of Education; and Gender and Education.

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Dr Sharon Elley

School of Sociology and Social Policy

My research broadly falls under the umbrella of youth studies and the sociology of education. I am keenly interested in formal and informal education, widening participation; and young people’s/students agency, transitions and educational/employment (dis)engagement. I combine previous professional experience as a youth worker with my academic interests in researching inequalities associated with young people and their families. Bridging the gap between academic knowledge and professional practice, developing participatory research methods and young people’s spaces also remains a key focus of my work. My doctoral research was about young people’s lived experiences of sex and relationship education. I am currently working with an interdisciplinary team to ‘trouble lad culture’ in higher education. I am the author of ‘Understanding Sex and Relationship Education, Youth and Class: A Youth Work-Led Approach’ (Palgrave, 2013) as well as a number of journal articles in: The Sociological Review; Sociology; and Sociological Research Online.

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Dr Jonathan Darling