Dodgy, dodgy statistics

I\’ve harped on this before but it\’s worth another little run.

Almost one in six children in Britain are living in households in which nobody has a job, according to a new report.

The UK average for children in jobless households is 15.3 per cent, but this rises to almost a quarter in London and 18 per cent in Wales, the North East, the North West and the West Midlands.

The study, released today by the Office for National Statistics, also shows that 22 per cent of British children live in low income households.

The figures are highest in the North East, where 28 per cent of people under the age of 20 live in families with an income at least 40 per cent below the UK average of about £34,000.

At one level of course this is true. We\’ve a national definition of poverty and it\’s a measure of relative poverty.

However, that national level grossly overstates the actual level of poverty (even relative poverty) if we were to measure it properly.

For, wage levels vary widely across the country (as do the costs of living). One notable number is that white collar female jobs in the NE pay 60% less than white collar female jobs in London. If we took London as our standard (we don\’t we take the national level as the standard, but bear with me) then every female in a white collar job in the NE would be poor as compared to one in London.

Which simply ain\’t the right way to be measuring poverty, even of the relative kind.

We need to be measuring consumption, adjusted for the regional cost of living, not money income adjusted for tax and benefits.

I\’m convinced that the supposed high level of poverty in the UK is in fact a statistical artefact, simply a measure of the way in which London and the SE (with high costs and high wages) dominate the economy in a way that happens in no other large European country.

8 comments on “Dodgy, dodgy statistics

  1. Exactly. In fact, I would have thought that because of the insistence on using Brown’s abitrary ‘60% of median income’ poverty benchmark, the recession will presumably mean that more people come out of poverty as income falls….

  2. Well, poverty (as defined by Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Statisticians) is relative… but joblessness? Either you have a job or you don’t.

  3. “The UK average for children in jobless households is 15.3 per cent, but this rises to almost a quarter in London ”
    How do they afford it? I earn a good wage and we are not living in luxury nor could we afford to live in 50%+ of London.

  4. The phrase used is ‘low income households’ which as we’re talking about 40% below the average (or is it the median) really depends on what you define as ‘low’ whether you believe it or not.

  5. A political construct bearing no relation to reality. I wonder who would have dreamt that up then?

  6. I live in the North East, and I have lived in the London area in the past.

    Cost of housing in the NE is way low compared to London. That includes rents as well as house prices.

    Public transport costs a lot more in London too.

    Don’t know about food prices.

    And the quality of life is much better up here. You can expect to park your car in the street outside your house. There’s a lot less pressure, and a lot more freedom.

  7. The repeated misuse of statistics has totally undermined the credibility of virtually any statement that relies on them.

    After all, 99% of all known criminals drinks tea!

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