Research note: The persistent risk of in-work poverty following the birth of a first, second, and third child across the life course




parenthood, poverty, cross-national, life course


Objective: The association between a first, second, and third childbirth and in-work poverty in the short- and medium-term were assessed across age groups in the US and Germany.

Background: Previous research on in-work poverty has concentrated on structural and ascriptive characteristics, while family processes - especially childbirths - received less attention. This gap was filled by adopting a processual life course approach.

Method: Longitudinal data from the US and Germany were applied to between-within random effects models to estimate within-individual change in the probability of in-work poverty up to six years following a first, second, and third childbirth across age groups.

Results: First, second, and third birth were associated with an immediate increase in the probability of in-work poverty (up to 10 and 5 percentage points in the US and in Germany, respectively). Among US adults aged 30 and younger probabilities increased in the medium term (from 9 to 15 percentage points for a first, 6 to 15 for a second, and 9 to 18 for a third birth), but remained unchanged for older adults in the US and all adults in Germany.

Conclusion: There was no recovery in risk of in-work poverty in the medium-term following childbirth in the US and Germany. Increasing the labor market participation of adult household members via more and low-cost childcare options remains crucial. However, higher levels of income support and child benefits may be needed to avoid poverty.


Akee, R., Jones, M. R., & Porter, S. R. (2019). Race Matters: Income Shares, Income Inequality, and Income Mobility for All U.S. Races. Demography, 56(3), 999–1021. DOI:

Allison, P. (2009). Fixed Effects Regression Models. Sage Publications. DOI:

Andreß, H. J., & Lohmann, H. (2008). The Working Poor in Europe: Employment, Poverty and Globalisation. Edward Elgar Publishing. DOI:

Baker, R. S. (2015). The changing association among marriage, work, and child poverty in the United States, 1974–2010. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77(5), 1166–1178. DOI:

Baker, R. S., Brady, D., Parolin, Z., & Williams, D. T. (2021). The Enduring Significance of Ethno-Racial Inequalities in Poverty in the U.S., 1993–2017. Population Research and Policy Review. DOI:

Barbieri, P., Cutuli, G., & Scherer, S. (2018). In-work poverty in Southern Europe: The case of Italy. In H. Lohmann & I. Marx (Eds.), Handbook on In-Work Poverty (pp. 312–327). Edward Elgar Publishing. DOI:

Brady, D., & Parolin, Z. (2020). The levels and trends in deep and extreme poverty in the United States, 1993–2016. Demography, 57(6), 2337–2360. DOI:

Cooper, M., & Pugh, A. J. (2020). Families Across the Income Spectrum: A Decade in Review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 82(1), 272–299. DOI:

Dickey, H., & Widmaier, A. M. (2021). The persistent pay gap between Easterners and Westerners in Germany: A quarter-century after reunification. Papers in Regional Science, 100(3), 605–631. DOI:

Elder, G. H., & Rockwell, R. C. (1979). The life-course and human development: An ecological perspective. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 2(1), 1–21. DOI:

Eurostat. (2020). In-Work Poverty in EU. European Union.

Filandri, M., & Struffolino, E. (2019). Individual and household in-work poverty in Europe: Understanding the role of labor market characteristics. European Societies, 21(1), 130–157. DOI:

Hick, R., & Lanau, A. (2018). Moving In and Out of In-work Poverty in the UK: An Analysis of Transitions, Trajectories and Trigger Events. Journal of Social Policy, 47(4), 661–682. DOI:

Letablier, M.-T., Luci, A., Math, A., & Thevenon, O. (2009). The costs of raising children and the effectiveness of policies to support parenthood in European countries: A Literature Review (p. 164). European Comission Directorate-General "Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Unit E1 – Social and Demographic Analysis.

Lohmann, H., & Marx, I. (2018). Handbook on In-Work Poverty. Edward Elgar Publishing. DOI:

Moffitt, R. A. (2015). The Deserving Poor, the Family, and the U.S. Welfare System. Demography, 52(3), 729–749. DOI:

OECD. (1982). The OECD list of social indicators. OECR Publications and Information Center.

Parolin, Z. (2019). The Effect of Benefit Underreporting on Estimates of Poverty in the United States. Social Indicators Research, 144(2), 869–898. DOI:

Peña-Casas, R., Ghailani, D., Spasova, S., & Vanhercke, B. (2019). In-work poverty in Europe. A study of national policies. European Social Policy Network (ESPN). European Commission.

Polizzi, A., Struffolino, E., & Van Winkle, Z. (2022). Family demographic processes and in-work poverty: A systematic review. Advances in Life Course Research, 52, 100462. DOI:

Semega, J., Kollar, M., Shrider, E. A., Creamer, J. F., U.S. Census Bureau, & Current Population Report. (2020). Income and Poverty in the United States: 2019. U.S. Government Publishing Office.

Sjölander, A., Lichtenstein, P., Larsson, H., & Pawitan, Y. (2013). Between-within models for survival analysis. Statistics in Medicine, 32(18), 3067–3076. DOI:

Struffolino, E., Bernardi, L., & Larenza, O. (2020). Lone Mothers’ Employment Trajectories: A Longitudinal Mixed-method Study. Comparative Population Studies, 45. DOI:

Struffolino, E., & Mortelmans, D. (2018). Lone mothers in Belgium: Labour force attachment and risk factors. In L. Bernardi & D. Mortelmans (Eds.), Lone Parenthood in the Life Course (pp. 257–282). Springer. DOI:

Thiede, B. C., Lichter, D. T., & Sanders, S. R. (2015). America’s Working Poor: Conceptualization, Measurement, and New Estimates. Work and Occupations, 42(3), 267–312. DOI:

Van Winkle, Z., & Fasang, A. E. (2020). Parenthood Wage Gaps Across the Life Course: A Comparison by Gender and Race. Journal of Marriage and Family, 82(5), 1397-1716. DOI:

Van Winkle, Z., & Leopold, T. (2021). Family size and economic wellbeing following divorce: The United States in comparative perspective. Social Science Research, 96, 102541. DOI:

Van Winkle, Z., & Struffolino, E. (2018). When working isn’t enough: Family demographic processes and in-work poverty across the life course in the United States. Demographic Research, 39(12), 365–380. DOI:

Vandecasteele, L., & Giesselmann, M. (2018). The dynamics of in-work poverty. In H. Lohmann & I. Marx (Eds.), Handbook on In-Work Poverty (pp. 193–211). Edward Elgar Publishing. DOI:




How to Cite

Struffolino, E., & Van Winkle, Z. (2023). Research note: The persistent risk of in-work poverty following the birth of a first, second, and third child across the life course. Journal of Family Research, 35, 345–356.