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Measuring poverty

Written By: - Date published: 9:38 am, October 22nd, 2014 - 40 comments
Categories: benefits, child welfare, poverty - Tags: , , , ,

The Nats know all about the importance of monitoring and goals when it comes to effecting change. For example, when it comes to beneficiary bashing:

Mr English said the valuation [of benefit costs] was an important “performance tool” and would change the behaviour of the Government by forcing it to confront the long-term issue rather than accepting it was an unavoidable cost. … “When you take a long-term model, there’s no place to hide.”

No place to hide indeed. Which is why (giggle!) the Nats have to date refused to measure poverty (e.g. from 2012):

Yesterday Prime Minister John Key also ruled out new legislation which would set out an official measure of child poverty and require the Government to set a target to reduce it. That legislation was considered a critical “first step” by the Children’s Commissioner Expert Advisory Panel.

This may – finally – be about to change. Under questioning this morning on Morning Report, Key committed (audio) to spending more to alleviate poverty, and also (crucially) to measuring it.

We must hold the government to this important commitment.

40 comments on “Measuring poverty”

  1. Barfly 1

    “also talked about having an agreed measure of some kind – good to hear”

    I m sure Crosby Textor can agree on a system of measurement that proves there isn’t a problem.,…regardless of the reality

  2. Scottie 2

    What is the best and fairest way to measure child poverty in New Zealand?

    • b waghorn 2.1

      Income vs cost of living in the area you live . minimum wage wold be not to bad in Taumarunui but I can’t imagine trying to survive on it in the big smoke.

      • Michael 2.1.1

        The number of children living in a household where the annual income of its adult members is less than 60 percent of the average annual income of two adults.

        • Wayne 2.1.1.1

          Is this a good measure of actual poverty? It is simply a statistical analysis.

          Surely it would be better to measure poverty against some form of deprivation index, covering access to housing, adequate food, clothing, health costs, power costs, transport, etc

          • Tracey 2.1.1.1.1

            Like we do when we label schools decile 1, 2 etc…

            Or is that different?

          • McFlock 2.1.1.1.2

            Horses for courses.

            Fractions of median income provide a consistent measure over time, whereas dep baskets provide more characterisation of the problem (especially if you break down the responses) but vary over time as tech and culture changes.

            The other thing that happens with the deprivation basket is dickheads say shit like “I don’t need two pairs of shoes”, i.e. focus on one measure to try to discredit the entire process. E.g. should financially-limited social integration be part of the basket? In that case we have things birthday parties and gaming consoles in the dep survey – not existential necessities, but something for the kids to talk about outside of school. But on the flipside, the same dickheads talk about some imaginary mate of theirs who lives very comfortably on <50% median, so therefore poverty doesn't exist.

            Personally, I think the two measures work in tandem, rather than one being more approriate for everything than the other.

          • greywarshark 2.1.1.1.3

            @ Wayne
            That would seem a realistic basis for the measure. But movement improvement under one heading wouldn’t be able to be quoted as improvement in child poverty indicators. We don’t want a lot of fudging and argument about meaning instead of energy going to where it produces real results.

          • Lanthanide 2.1.1.1.4

            In 2000 it probably wasn’t a big deal if a 14 year old didn’t have a cellphone.

            In 2014 it would be very unusual for a 14 year old not to have a cellphone. One of the reasons they might not have a cellphone is due to poverty. Should possession (or not) of a cellphone be used as a measure of poverty?

            • greywarshark 2.1.1.1.4.1

              @ Lanthanide
              The kids are being ordered to have IT equipment for school use. Would not having a laptop or tablet or ? be a measure of poverty? That might be more suitable as a measure. If everyone is expected to do some exercise on line, and you cannot, then you are excluded from the course that education is taking and missing out not only on the education you need, but the experience of operating this technology that everyone accepts as normal and necessary.

  3. Kiwiri - Raided of the Last Shark 3

    Target vs measure?

    A target, sans measure, would serve better as a public relations, feel-good, spinnable exercise.

    • greywarshark 3.1

      We don’t want to end up with some pseudo measure that can be manipulated to screen the problem. I think there is a term ‘plausible deniability’ for edging around an unattractive statistic.

  4. Tracey 4

    Turei has taken up Hone’s bill to feed brekkie and lunch to decile 1 and 2 schools. Key has said they won’t be doing that. Cleverly Turei has called on him to include it in the reinstatement and vote for the first passage to enable it to go to Select Committee to enable the presentation, collection and analysis of evidence…

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/257117/turei-likely-to-pick-up-feed-the-kids-bill

  5. hoom 5

    Aspirational no doubt.

  6. I think that food parcels are the best indicator of poverty.
    Doesn’t need academics and research funding.
    Mana needs to back up its Bill with some practical solution.
    Soup kitchens with donated food and parent volunteers.
    This would feed the kids and empower the community.
    Politics would become grassroots/flaxroots.
    It would prove two things,
    That poverty is widespread (as if we didnt know).
    That when the poor get organised, capitalist cronies watch out!

  7. Stickler 7

    National is the party which routinely shuts down or starves of funds any government body which shows it up in a bad light – remember the Public Health Commission? Demolished by Jenny Shipley for telling the truth.

    It’s still tinkering with the health figures, and of course the crime stats. This week we had evidence that they had suppressed an SFO report on the social cost of economic crime that would have seriously embarassed National’s cronies.

    No Right Turn reports on the SFO’s findings:
    “Tax fraud costs us ~$2 billion a year. White collar fraud across the private sector costs us ~$3.2 – $5.1 billion. These activities are carried out overwhelmingly by National’s donors and cronies, and are vastly larger than the ~$80 million of estimated welfare fraud. Keeping us in the dark reduces the risk of being held accountable for this failure, reduces the pressure for them to act against their friends, and allows them to focus on kicking the poor.”

  8. dave 8

    The public voted for child poverty
    The latest from this shitty government is money isn’t the answer unless its for themselves

    • aerobubble 8.1

      Yes. Voters, when confronted by a fog of nonsense, where liable to think about how Key gave them a tax cut to cover their mortgage by raising the burden on lower income earners. Of course, Labour like Key, Key this, Key lists, Key points.
      When listening to Labour we do not hear the implicit imbedded loathing for Key in pronouncements of positive policies. Labour likes Key too much, he did give them and the media brat pact all a huge tax cut.

  9. Ad 9

    Was this one of the shortest – and least substantive – Speeches from the Throne that we’ve seen?

    My instinct seeing it was that this was a government enabling the government to gently shrink from visibility and from New Zealand life.

    Since the field is theirs without a functioning Opposition, they don’t have to do anything. Just keep contracting everything out.

    The nest result is an accelerated shrinking of much of the entire public realm.

    • srylands 9.1

      “The nest result is an accelerated shrinking of much of the entire public realm.”

      That is a good thing.

      • greywarshark 9.1.1

        Hello srylands Still there – you will rise out of your grave and make right wing comments and denunciations unless they cremate you. And even then, like the terminator… forming, running into itself….

  10. Tom Gould 10

    So things were better under Muldoon then?

    • Lanthanide 10.1

      In terms of the differences between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, yes. Obviously.

    • Depends what you mean by “better under Muldoon.” In 1982, there were a lot fewer sole parents, hence a lot fewer kids being raised long-term on benefits, and the public sector hadn’t been dismantled yet. Those things make for a huge difference in poverty ca Muldoon’s time vs now, but there wasn’t anything particular about Muldoon that caused that difference.

      • KJT 10.2.1

        Whether you liked the old bugger or not, and I didn’t at the time, at least he had a vision for New Zealand.
        Which did include building things up for the future, not selling them off in a fire sale.

        I think he would be horrified by what National have become.

  11. coaster 11

    If labour want to get back in, they have to have a point of difference to national.
    while centre right national is being led by a pm who wants to look like he and his party are park left, part right and a whole lot middle labour doesnt stand a chance.

    nationals true values dont concern themselves with poverty as the right beleive in trickle down economics and that everyone is responsible for their own future nd situation.

    we should stop bagging national for being right wing, the sooner they become centre right publicaly the sooner labour will gain ground.

    its very difficult to measure poverty, what is impoverished to some is not to others.
    for us, having to can sky, ditch the internet and having to think every time we buy something about wether theres enough money to buy it would be a shock to the system. Yet to others and how I grew up this type of thing is the norm.

    I did say that when I have kids we wont have mince or sausages on a regular basis, and yet that is what we do due to the price of meat.

    poverty is relAtive and very hard to measure.

    • aerobubble 11.1

      Collins, was a contender for a future leader of National, and so had a huge incentive to undermine Key. While Key was aboard Collins was ‘in charge’ allegedly. Slater, Mr double down, got fast tracked assistance. Now whether Collins was fitted up by Key, or Collins was undermining, doesn’t matter. The problem is every time a Labour spokesperson ups in front of a camera they talk about Labour this or Labour that, and mostly the nonsense stuff about their day in Caucus. Instead of pointing out Key trouble, or how Key into poverty, or how badly Keyed they are into the workings of National current nonsense. Citing a Key list of aspirations is what a National MP does, not a Labour one. Its been a joke listening to the Labour party, they all like Key too much.

    • greywarshark 11.2

      @ coaster
      I disagree. Poverty can have a measure that is objective and doesn’t look at mince or sausages. It would be visit to the doctor, affodable prescriptions, hospital visits in last year, dentist check and treatment, regular meals, basic things that needed to be in meals, how many of own shoes, or are they shared. How often to the pictures, how many books in house, favourite book, can they swim, what outdoor experiences. Pocket money. Warm in winter, what is eaten at home for snacks between meals.

  12. coaster 12

    I know what your saying, but that measure would have to be different depending on where you live etc. For example where I live it is difficult to access decent health care, gps are hard to see due to shortage, price of food is expensive, but most kids have easy access to outdoors and swimming. The dhb has been dodging giving kids dental care, due to a shortage of staff again.

    pocket money and books are a personal choice, with how cheap they are, often free and many parents dont agree with pocket money.

    it would be very hard to get a measure that would fit both say greymouth and aucland.

    • greywarshark 12.1

      @ coaster
      Well I think we have to try and think of one, a measure, or Nats will slide away under the door and leave it undone. What do they do overseas? And not just in the good old USA or other English-speaking countries. I do like to hear how other places out of the Angled hegemony. do things.

      There is school attendance and social worker reports and activity reports on behaviour and condition. Things would show up there. Are they on welfare or is there main parent in forced work? The advantages of that will be small, and the disadvantages may be big in less money into the family plus less time for support and communication, and absence when required for children’s needs.

      Money into the household will be an indicator. Middle class children can be fairly screwed up but the results for the children are a bit different and they would be left off most of the indicators.

      Just a few thoughts. Nothing is ever perfect but we need something suitable and practical that will give good stats that are real indicators.

  13. coaster 13

    One obvios one would be the amount of money you have left over at the end of each week. Kids in housholds where the parents earn 150k combined, but where there is no spare money after mortgage, and all the other other basic needs have come out are still in poverty.

    I think one of the big problems is that alot of kiwis dont beleive there is a problem or have never seen kids in this situation. Having facts and figures wont change that head in the sand mentality.

    it not national that we have to convince there is a problem, they dont care, its normal kiwis that need to be shown.

    • greywarshark 13.1

      @ coaster 11.15 pm
      True even when a working couple household get $150,000, the cost of housing can be
      crushing with no money left over. And it may not be possible to get cheaper housing, except by being far away from the kid’s schools and their workplaces.

      But presumably they will have a decent house to live in, so conditions of housing liveability and security of tenure, would be a factor in poverty measurement. Kids who have to shift from one school to another, get stressed, new house, new location, new school, new set of social interaction, new teacher etc. There is a social stress measurement which can be used to check stress, and new housing, shifting etc. has high points.

      Perhaps this chart of stresses could help define child poverty?
      edited

  14. Red delusion 14

    Just got back from Asia, I saw real poverty with no state welfare, the relative poverty and substantial state welfare we have here would be paradise to these people, similarly they would be disgusted at the whinging that goes on here by the chardoney left

    • wekarawshark 14.1

      Family and community function differently in other countries as well as the state. Not a useful comparison.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 14.2

      “These people” – and there it is – come and see the racism at the heart of the wingnut.

    • greywarshark 14.3

      Red delusion
      You delude yourself. When a person gets below a certain living level of society, there isn’t far to fall to get into a really bad state. It’s just more prevalent and historically long-lasting in some overseas countries than here.

      And in other countries better-off people have accepted it longer, consider it fate, feel superior and distanced, and have little concern for the badly off. You are well on the way to the same position here in this country. where we are mirroring the overseas situation.

  15. Tracey 15

    “… And at this critical juncture in our history, our Government is looking, instead, to offload state housing. It is the absolute, ultimate irony: a public welfare system that bridges the gap left by market failure, that, when starved, denigrated and under-resourced, as it is now, can only, apparently, be saved by the market.

    That’s despite the fact the market has proven itself absolutely useless at housing the poor, the mentally ill, and the elderly – and increasingly, anyone else who hasn’t got $50,000 or more in the bank as a deposit.

    Which is more and more of us.

    ….”

    . http://m.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11346757

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