Government should listen to experts on measuring child poverty

The Government should listen to the rising tide of expert opinion before changing the way child poverty in Britain is measured, according to Professor Mike Brewer in a post for LSE British Politics and Policy blog.

Professor Brewer cites a growing body of academic criticism of the Government’s intentions and calls for a reconsideration of this expert view.

" I think the government should be clearer on what it understands “poverty” to be, that it make small but important changes to the income-based measure of poverty so that it better reflects the financial resources available to households, and that it, or the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, regularly publishes information on a wide range of outcomes and circumstances of all children, with a focus on socio-economic differences, so that we can all monitor whether childhood inequalities are growing or shrinking."

The government proposes that the eight dimensions of poverty measurement might include income and material deprivation, worklessness, unmanageable debt, poor housing, parental skill levels, access to quality education, family stability and parental health. ISER has responded questioning whether the multi-dimensional measure makes conceptual sense. ISER’s responses states:

“We strongly support the idea that the government publish more information about the living standards, wellbeing and life chances of children and on the nature and extent of inequalities in these dimensions. But we do not see the value at all in combining all of these different concepts into a single measure called “child poverty.” We think that a measure combining the eight proposed dimensions would be conceptually unsound, as some of the dimensions do not measure poverty. It would certainly not be transparent, and it may be hard to explain to the public.”

ISER proposes four new indicators as an alternative which would effectively measure child poverty.

These are: drivers or cause of family poverty; lack of material resources; low contemporary child well-being; and barriers to children’s life chances.


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