15 June 2012

The ludicrous child poverty statistics

Good news - 300,000 fewer children are living in poverty than last year! 

The fact that this is down to the recession and a fall in average incomes shows the ludicrous nature of the concept of defining poverty as a percentage of average income.  Those 300,000 children are living in families most likely worse off than last year.

The 2010 child povery act - along with Tony Blair 13 years earlier - pledge to abolish 'child poverty' was one of those stupid stunts so beloved of new Labour.  You can't legislate poverty away - but being seen to be doing something was more important than actually doing something.  And if you define poverty as a relative to something else you cannot by definition ever abolish poverty because as incomes rise the bar you set rises with it.  Every time a multi millionaire Russian gangster oligarch moves to London we all get poorer.

Iain Duncan Smith is right to say that it is "increasingly clear that poverty is not about income alone".  And by way of a start he might want to find a more appropriate way of measuring poverty in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. All sorts of arguments in this, but you're wrong on two points of statistics:

    - the standard measure relates to median income, not mean: so the impact of the arrival of one Russian oligarch into the resident population of the UK is nil (or so close to nil as to make no difference);

    - and the standard definition is not purely relative: 60% of median income. There will always be a 'poorest 10%' but there needn't always be people below 60% of the median: it depends on the distribution.