« Insane Sir Salman Rushdie Post of the Day | Main | Government IT: Yes, Again »

June 19, 2007

Save the Children on Childhood Poverty

Save the Children has a report out on childhood poverty. Some snippets:

Given the multi-dimensional nature of poverty, its measurement should encompass a variety of
dimensions and not just income (Perry, 2002), since focusing solely on income may miss out important
aspects of what it means to be poor (Nolan and Whelan, 2005). Furthermore, it has been pointed out
that poverty measures based solely on income are often limited, given the difficulty in obtaining an accurate calculation of a household’s income and widespread misreporting of income by respondents in surveys. Material deprivation indicators should compensate to some extent for the misreporting of income, which is believed to be a particular problem at the lower end of the income distribution (Willitts, 2006).

Interesting, don't you think? We're no longer to define poverty as actually being poor. That is, not having a decent income is no longer to be the definition.

So, we are to move to indicators of material deprivation. Lots of fun can be had there. I think we'd all agree that someone without sufficient food (in the absence of someone spending the cash on drugs, booze or tabs I mean) poor, yes. But a colour TV? Car? New furniture? Dishwasher?

How about, not enough bedrooms that teenage children of different sexes need to share a bedroom? Yes, that is indeed one of the definitions of severe poverty here. I agree that it may well not be desirable but severe poverty or excessive fertility?

Nevertheless, our confidence in the use of the enforced lack approach in this study is strengthened by the fact that research evidence has not highlighted differential reporting of deprivation indicators by families with children – families tend not to differ much from the general population (Willitts, 2006).

Beg pardon? Families are entirely different from the general population. They've, err, got children.

This whole report is confusing me mightily. I wish I could work out how to get table 2.6 into this blog post. What it seems to be saying is that it is possible for a two parent one child family to not be in poverty on £132 a week (that's post housing costs) while it's possible for another to be in severe poverty on the same income ( both severe income poverty and severe deprivation).

Which, if true, leads one to the conclusion that it's what people are doing with the money they have, not the amount of money they have, which is the determinant of poverty or not.

OK then, fine. There are parents who are feckless wastrels and those who are not. I'm a little amused that Save the Children has devoted a whole report to this but there we go.

So, where does this leave the case that we must spend more to alleviate poverty?

Ah, here's the table:


Does that actually mean what I think it does?

June 19, 2007 in Make Poverty History | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Save the Children on Childhood Poverty:


Maybe StC is going to become a genuine charity again and apologise for advocating increased state extortion to reward parental irresponsibility?


Posted by: AntiCitizenOne | Jun 19, 2007 4:45:09 PM

Send me the report and I'll send the table back as a JPEG (or I'll do some HTML for you). would that do?


Posted by: Devil's Kitchen | Jun 19, 2007 4:54:52 PM

It's not a child's fault if his parents have too many children for their size of house, so I don't understand the 'excessiver fertility' remark.

Is the report downloadable? From your summary, it seems quite sensible - everyone can think of families with not much money but whose children aren't in 'poverty', even though money clearly is the most important determinant.

Tim adds: Not downloadable that I could find. Have to write in and ask for it.
About housing: all the numbers are after housing costs so the bedroom thing doesn't make sense at all.
About money not being the determinant: OK, if it isn't, what is the Govt going to do about it? Able to do?

Posted by: Matthew | Jun 19, 2007 6:27:30 PM

In that table, and in the childless couple but otherwise same table in the appendix, the mean income of the income poor but no material deprivation is exactly the same as the severely deprived, so perhaps it is a typo.

Posted by: Matthew | Jun 19, 2007 6:36:57 PM

it's here


I think you misread me too - I said 'money is clearly the most important determinant', not 'money not being the determinant'.

Posted by: Matthew | Jun 19, 2007 6:40:42 PM

"About housing: all the numbers are after housing costs so the bedroom thing doesn't make sense at all."

No, you're not making sense. It's perfectly possible to be not in poverty after taking your current housing costs into consideration but still overcrowded. In fact, a family on a given income is going to be paying less - and therefore less likely to be in income poverty after housing costs - for a smaller house, but a smaller house is also more likely to be overcrowded. Get it?

This also means that boosting their income is one way of reducing their non-income poverty (ie material deprivation) because it might mean they are able to afford adequately sized accommodation.

Tim adds: But as poverty numbers are adjusted fo household siaze, surely this has already been dealt with in that adjustment?

Posted by: Jim | Jun 19, 2007 7:24:52 PM

"But as poverty numbers are adjusted fo household siaze, surely this has already been dealt with in that adjustment?"

Er, no. Income is equivalised according to household size but not housing costs or material deprivation indicators such as overcrowding.

Posted by: Jim | Jun 20, 2007 12:21:22 AM