Welfare

Child poverty measures lead to narrow thinking


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Ministers should aim to tackle the true causes of child poverty rather than focusing on inequality

Commenting on child poverty measures in the UK, Ryan Bourne, Head of Public Policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“Current child poverty measures bear little relationship to what poverty actually looks like. Absurdly, poverty fell during the recent recession as incomes fell, because the poverty line is pegged to median incomes. This completely ignores whether a family has enough to have an acceptable standard of living and participate in society.

“Whilst decent incomes are of course important in reducing poverty across the board, our current targets really measure inequality rather than real poverty. Their existence has meant for years the government has obsessively focused on boosting nominal incomes via benefits and wage floors, creating a huge blind spot on both the cost of living and more structural causes of poverty – like family breakdown and other social problems.

“For families struggling to make ends meet, reducing the cost of things like housing, energy, childcare and food is key. Yet current government policies current policy push up prices in all of these areas. At a time of constrained public finances, it would make much more sense for the government to focus on undoing these damaging measures, rather than listening to the campaign groups advocating more redistribution and higher minimum wages – policies which in some instances could make the most vulnerable poorer.”

Notes to Editors:

To arrange an interview please contact: Stephanie Lis, Head of Communications: 07766 221 268

The IEA has published two major studies into poverty in the UK:

A New Understanding of Poverty, can be accessed here.

Redefining the Poverty Debate, Why a War on Markets is No Substitute for a War on Poverty can be accessed here.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.

The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.



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