This week the social aid that does not distinguish its beneficiaries by income has been questioned, after the controversy over the collection of the electric social bonus of the vice-councillor Enrique Ossorio and the opposition leader Mónica García. Despite having a high income, they both received help for being the parents of a large family. But, how are the incomes of these families in general?

Most of Spain’s large families have low incomes, but they are a mixed bag and there are also thousands who are quite wealthy.

This is indicated by the data from the National Institute of Statistics: of households with three or more children (see methodology), 38% are among the 20% of households with the lowest equivalent net income in Spain. But, at the same time, another 13% of these large families have high incomes and are, despite their size, among the richest 20% of the population.

The above data shows that families with children are poorer overall. Their expected expenses increase, at the rate of the number of children, without the income growing in the same proportion. The limiting case is single-parent families, the most vulnerable group. 40% of these households are among the poorest and only 6% among the richest.

At the opposite extreme, in Spain the households with the best equivalent income per person are those made up of two adults without children, even when they are retired.

Total and equivalent income

The above figures are expressed as equivalent income per person or per consumption unit, following the usual practice of the INE and Eurostat. This is an adjustment to refine the income of a household based on its size. It’s simple: it consists of adding all the net income of a household, and then dividing it by the number of units that make it up. The first adult counts as one unit, the other adults 0.5, and each child 0.3.

For example, a house with two adults and three children is made up of 2.4 units (1 + 0.5 + 0.3 + 0.3 + 0.3). If their income is 38,000 euros net, the equivalent income of the five will be 15,900 euros, which places them in the national median. On the other hand, an adult who earns the same 38,000 euros, if he lives alone, will be in the 5% with the highest income in Spain.

This difference explains the following graph. Large families constitute 8% of poor households when we consider their total income, but when we look at equivalent income per person, they rise to 10%. As is logical, large families look poorer when taking into account that they are more people.

In this graph, looking at the total income also serves to pay attention to another detail: there are more large families from wealthy households than from average income. Because? One possibility is that the people with the most money are the ones who can afford to have the most children. But it may also be that having more children pushes some families to increase their income to meet their higher expenses.

Differences by communities

In Spain there are some 750,000 large families —with three or more dependent children— whose incomes will vary for multiple reasons. But one that is easy to see is geography: there are large income differences between communities. For example, the typical large family in the Basque Country or Navarra is richer than the typical family —large or not large— in a dozen communities.

Check your income level

In this last graph, you can look up the income of a household and see what percentile it is in, from the 1% with the lowest income to the richest 1%. You can do it with the total income or with the equivalents per person.

Methodology. The income data comes from the Living Conditions Surveys, published by the INE. The large family title can be accessed by meeting different requirements, but for this analysis we have had to limit ourselves to considering households with one or more adults where three or more dependent children live (which includes all minors and age and those of less than 25 years old who do not work). Our data does not include other types of large families, such as families formed by a father or mother with two children when the other parent has died, or other formulas when children or parents have some degree of disability.

In order to analyze the data by autonomous community, we have added the 2019, 2020 and 2021 surveys.

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