News & Events

LargeFam - Bringing Large Families Back on the Policy Agenda

Date: 2 days, in mid-June (7-23) 2022

Location: UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy, Dublin, Ireland

Recent studies show that large families are much more common than assumed in wealthy nations (Curran 2021, Fahey 2017, Bujard et al. 2019), but receive very little research and policy attention. In the last decades poverty research tended to focus on lone parents, although children in large families face a similar risk of poverty. For instance, in some countries children in large families still experience a higher risk of poverty than those in lone parent households (e.g. Ireland). The international workshop aims to mainstream a renewed research and policy focus on large families and learn from international experiences. We want to bring together an interdisciplinary field of researchers to refocus inequality and poverty studies on a very relevant demographic. In addition, policy makers are invited to highlight policy problems and discuss solutions.

The background for the international workshop is that large families received a lot of policy attention up to the 1960s. The benefit and tax system in most advanced economies recognised the increased cost of childbearing for families with four, sometimes three, or more children. With declining birth rates and smaller family sizes the policy focussed shifted towards supporting lone parents. Yet, the large family paradox remains when taking on a child perspective. Although the relative share of households with large families has declined, a substantive number of children continue to grow up in large families (inter alia Curran 2019, Fahey 2017). Modern social transfer systems also tend to neglect this still very relevant child poverty risk. This can range from punitive policies that cap welfare benefits at the ideal modern family with two children (UK). Other jurisdictions (Germany, Ireland) have reduced the traditionally higher rate of child benefit for the third child to the standard rate. Contrary, in Eastern Europe we can observe more pro-natal policies that encourage large families.

This workshop aims to revive this underrecognized perspective on child inequality and poverty. We welcome papers that address large families from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, methodological perspective and across the globe. In particular, we are interested in papers that contribute to our empirical understanding what constitutes a large family. Some studies draw the line at 3 children (Bujard et al. 2019), while more conservative estimates consider only four and more children (Curran 2019). What is the socio-demographic profile of these large families? In popular discourses two extremes dominate the debate: Either journalists claim that only rich families that can afford more children, while other authors blame poor families that raise many children to claim child-related benefits. We are seeking thorough empirical papers that provide a detailed profile of these large families and debunk these popular myths towards a more nuanced discourse. Moreover, we welcome papers that scrutinise these discourses and perceptions on large families. Finally, comparative policy papers are sought that address in detail the social policy changes for large families and the new family size norms that surround this neglect of large families. This explicitly includes policy simulations on the distributive effects if the number of siblings would be recognised differently in the benefit and tax system.

confirmed keynote speakers:

Prof. Jane Waldfogel (Columbia University, USA)

Dr. Martin Bujard (Federal Institute for Population Research, Germany)



Dr. Stephan Köppe, UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice,

Dr. Megan Curran, Center on Poverty & Social Policy at Columbia University,


The conference is supported by the IRC New Foundations grant Large Families: Policy Learning and Solutions.