Factoid graveyard: “500,000 more children in poverty”

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn used the “500,000 more children in poverty” factoid only yesterday.  It does sound bad.  There are four things to say about this:

  • it is a measure of relative poverty, relative poverty tends to undulate gently against the grain of the wider economy, in good times it goes up, in bad times it goes down
  • the number of children is growing right now anyway, there are 1 million more children now than there were at the start of the New Labour period
  • as a percentage of the child population this number is lower than late New Labour
  • average relative child poverty rates under New Labour were worse than they were in the first seven years of Conservative rule.

This factoid comes from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and their UK Poverty 2018 report published 4th December 2018.

The landing page for this report smacks you in the face with two big child poverty facts they have gleaned from their research.  Their research essentially comprises the reworking of figures produced by the government notably the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Households Below Average Income (HBAI) statistics.

If anyone bothers to download JRF’s full report and read down to page 12 they will find this chart of HBAI data.

The green line at the top represents relative child poverty.  It has increased in the last five years as JRF suggests to 30% according to relative low income after housing costs (column I of chart 4a) of the HBAI data.  Its recent peak was 2006/7 and 2007/8 when the number was 31% two years running.

In ten out of 13 New Labour years this number was 30% or above.  It was 30% for the two most recent years for which data is available.  It was below 30% for the five Coalition years.

The average child poverty rate under 13 years of New Labour was 30.7%.

The average rate for the seven years since with the Conservatives was 28.3%.

So the Conservative performance on this measure of relative poverty has been considerably better than Labour’s.

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