How large families fare in Germany: Examining child poverty risks and policy solutions

By Stephan KöppeMegan CurranIñigo Aldama


Historically, researchers and policymakers alike recognized the risk of poverty among large families, but family size is often neglected in the contemporary literature. This article revives an examination of the connections between family size and poverty risk for children with a focus on Germany. We take a child-centered perspective by analyzing a sample of 13–14 year-old children from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS). First, we provide a detailed overview of the welfare and tax policies aimed at large families in Germany. Next, we estimate the poverty risk and prevalence for children in large families (looking at families with 3+ and 4+ children). Finally, we discuss how the policy and socio-economic context interacts with the risk of poverty. We identify that the means-tested social assistance scheme penalizes large families, while the child benefit would only acknowledge higher need of middle-income families with three or more children.

Key Practitioner Message

  • One in four children grow up in large families, about twice as much as in single parent families.
  • The poverty risk of families with four or more children is at 30%.
  • The social assistance scheme offsets the increased child benefit rates for large families and, therefore, increases the risk of poverty.
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