Thankfully this is untrue

Poverty in Britain is at a nine year high, says Joseph Rowntree Foundation report

The report does say this but the report is wrong.

The foundation\’s report found that the number of people living in \”low income\” households was now 13.4million, the highest level since 2000 when it was nearly 14million.

A low income household is one that lives on less than 60 per cent of the average UK household income in the year in question – after housing costs and council tax. For a family of four it is £14,560 a year.

What they are actually noting is that inequality has risen. Inequality is not the same as poverty: for all the use of relative poverty as a synonym for poverty.

It is entirely possible for living standards at the bottom of the economic pile to increase (ie, the poor are getting richer) even while inequality is rising: it just needs the incomes of the rich to be increasing faster than those of the poor. And this is what is actually happening.

However you spin it, this just isn\’t the same as the poor getting poorer, nor of there being, by any absolute standard, more poor people. It only happens because of the definitional confusion (a confusion quite deliberately created) between inequality and poverty.

8 comments on “Thankfully this is untrue

  1. Perhaps we should stop using “poor” and start using “least rich”. It’s no less appropriate than calling lefties “progressive”.

  2. Sorry Tim, you’re not quite right – perhaps you’ve been misled by the pig-ignorance of that Telegraph claim that “a low income household is one that lives on less than 60 per cent of the average UK household income.”
    It’s not. (Relative) poverty is defined as 60% of median income.
    This means that relative poverty cannot increase if the incomes of the rich rise – because such a rise does not affect median incomes.
    Of course, the numbers in poverty can increase if the median income rises faster than lower incomes. So in that sense you’re driving towards a good point.

  3. “In September a teachers’ leader gave warning that poverty levels in parts of Britain mirror “the times of Dickens”, leaving schools struggling to cope with increasing numbers of children lacking the most basic personal skills.”

    This teachers’ leader is saying that little Johnny is incapable of tying his shoelaces because Jenson Button got a pay rise.

  4. “This teachers’ leader is saying that little Johnny is incapable of tying his shoelaces because Jenson Button got a pay rise.”

    Well, we wouldn’t want people to wonder exactly why we are paying teachers at all, would we?

    Far better to yell ‘Look, over there! Bunnies!’

  5. Put another way, if the national median income was 50 grand, then Joe Roundtree’s bods would be claiming that anyone earning 30 grand or less was “living in poverty”.

    I don’t know whether living on 15 thousand quid a year puts one in real poverty, but if the methodology is bollox you can pretty much discount the study before you get to those arguments.

  6. Pingback: Liberal Conspiracy » Why are Tory writers so stupid?

  7. God knows I’d find it tough living on the median income in the UK, let alone 60% of it, but to characterise it as poverty is to rob the word of all meaning. When I was a postgrad oop North in the 90’s, I was broke, but it wasn’t poverty. I’ve seen poverty, and anything similar in the UK would not be due to straitened circumstances but a lifestyle choice.

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