Most of the studies of poverty that have paid attention to the age of those who are poor have revealed that the risk and extent of poverty varies with age. Indeed a major feature of Rowntree’s (1901, 1941) seminal studies of poverty in York was his notion of the ‘life-cycle’ changes in the risk of poverty, as discussed in Chapter 7. Rowntree identified three periods in the life cycle when there was an increased risk of poverty: childhood, parenthood and old age; although, as others have argued, changing life chances may in practice be more complex than this for many. These periods of increased risk of poverty can be contrasted with periods of relative plenty when income is higher and/or demands are fewer. For manual workers this may be in early adulthood when strength and fitness are at their peak; for white-collar workers it may be towards the end of their careers when incrementally based earnings are highest. In both cases, as we have seen, the effect of distribution of income over lifetime is roughly ‘U’ shaped.
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