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Poverty Watch 40

Written By: - Date published: 9:09 am, July 20th, 2013 - 10 comments
Categories: national, poverty - Tags:

My Poverty Watch post this week took on a life of it’s own, and ended up appearing as a separate post on inequality. So here’s just a quick thought for this week’s edition.

Educational outcomes and poverty – they’re linked. Obviously – right? – but it’s the bit that the Nats always leave out of the story:

Schools fail to meet national targets

Wellington and Hawke’s Bay primary and secondary school pupils are lagging behind government targets, but they are not alone. Nationwide, none of the targets for national standards, NCEA for school leavers, or early childhood education participation is being met. …

The data show improvements across all areas nationally but identify precise areas where more investment is needed to meet targets, Education Minister Hekia Parata said. “It’s clear we have challenges, in particular, in respect of Maori and Pasifika, and it’s clear we have challenges in terms of boys.”

The challenge that Parata and the Nats will never want to see and acknowledge is the challenge of poverty. There’s plenty on this, but here’s a piece I found recently from America:

No Rich Child Left Behind

Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.

Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.

What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.

One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago. …

These widening disparities are not confined to academic outcomes: new research by the Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam and his colleagues shows that the rich-poor gaps in student participation in sports, extracurricular activities, volunteer work and church attendance have grown sharply as well.

In San Francisco this week, more than 14,000 educators and education scholars have gathered for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The theme this year is familiar: Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?

We are still talking about this despite decades of clucking about the crisis in American education and wave after wave of school reform. Whatever we’ve been doing in our schools, it hasn’t reduced educational inequality between children from upper- and lower-income families.

Something for Parata to think about. Yeah right.


Here’s the standard footnote. Poverty (and inequality) were falling (albeit too slowly) under the last Labour government.   Now they are on the rise again, in fact a Waikato University professor says that poverty is our biggest growth industry.

Before the last election Labour called for a cross party working group on poverty. Key turned the offer down.  Report after report after report has condemned the rate of poverty in this country, and called on the government to act. Meanwhile 40,000 kids are fed by charities and up to 80,000 are going to school hungry. National has responded with complete denial of the issues, saying that the government is already doing enough to help families feed their kids. Organisations working with the poor say that Key is in poverty ‘la la land’.

The Nats refuse to even measure the problem (though they certainly believe in measurement and goals when it suits them to bash beneficiaries). In a 2012 summary of the government’s targets and goals John Armstrong wrote: “Glaringly absent is a target for reducing child poverty”…

The costs of child poverty are in the range of $6-8 Billion per year, but the Nats refuse to spend the $2 Billion that would be needed to really make a difference. Even in purely economic terms National’s attitude makes no sense.

10 comments on “Poverty Watch 40 ”

  1. It’s true that poor educational achievement is strongly correlated with poverty, and that this particular elephant in the room goes miraculously unnoticed when any government representative discusses our education system – from the Minister, down through Min of Ed spokespeople, all the way down to propagandists like Farrar and Slater (for whom any discussion of issues with the education system boils down to the evils of teacher unions).

    However, correlation isn’t causation and there’s a big question raised by the US research you quote, specifically by this bit:

    …using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.

    We’re seeing the same thing with other unpleasantnesses correlated with poverty (third-world diseases, kids going to school hungry etc) – they’re way up on what they were 30 years ago, but the people involved aren’t materially worse off than the people of 30 years ago. That suggests the explanations we should be looking for are social and cultural, not material.

    • just saying 1.1

      …but the people involved aren’t materially worse off than the people of 30 years ago.

      Citation required.

      It seems to me that this kind of belief at the heart of your worldview, PM, – that poverty (you would, I’m sure, put the word ‘poverty’ in inverted commas), arises primarilyfrom, – or maybe even is nothing more than, the character defects, ie the social, and cultural deficiencies, of the poor themselves. And this belief seems to entail, for you, punishment, or at the very least, removing anything that could be construed as “rewarding” poverty, such as providing more resources to the poor. For their own good – cruel to be kind etc.

      • tricledrown 1.1.1

        the National party are nothing more than narcissistic bullies!
        even the Propaganda they push is flawed science nothing more than pure spin(BS)!

      • Psycho Milt 1.1.2

        Citations:

        Ministry of Social Development, 2012, “Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship, 1982 to 2011“:

        The longer-run findings on child poverty reflect the fact that AHC incomes in 2011 for low-income households were around the same as they were in the early 1980s in real terms…

        This is spelt out more precisely in Max Rashbrooke’s Herald piece on rising inequality:

        Someone in the lowest 10th of the country has, after housing costs, just $11,500 a year to spend. That figure (adjusted for inflation) in 1982? $11,000.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.2.1

          It has been noted that somethings have been going up at rates faster than the rate of inflation. Power and housing come to mind and so it’s likely that those people actually are materially worse off.

          • Psycho Milt 1.1.2.1.1

            Sure, prices of some things rise faster than inflation – but prices of other things rise slower (for instance, clothes and shoes are much cheaper than they were in 1982, thanks to our enthusiastic exploitation of third-world labour). That’s why people are generally happy to call inflation-adjusted figures “real.” Also, the income figures above specifically exclude housing costs.

            • Blue Leopard 1.1.2.1.1.1

              Is food cheaper?

              Seems like it is substantially more expensive.

              Housing costs excluded

              Is that because they have risen astronomically and would lead to the opposite conclusion to be drawn–that affordability of basic living costs are harder to meet now than they were before Market Theory was applied?

              • I don’t doubt it’s possible to dispute endlessly the accuracy of “in real terms” and “adjusted for inflation” – nevertheless, they’re the best we’ve got. If you think MSD and Rashbrooke are wrong about their figures, make an opposing case.

                As to “housing costs excluded,” yes they are excluded for a reason, but not the one you’re imagining. Consider this:

                1. Housing costs have risen much faster than inflation over the last 30 years.
                2. Despite that, real after-housing-costs (AHC) income for low-income households is approximately equivalent to what it was 30 years ago.
                3. If housing costs are higher but AHC incomes are about the same, current before-housing-cost incomes must be higher than they were in 1982.
                4. Therefore, we shouldn’t compare before-housing-cost incomes – it would make current low incomes look higher than they actually are.

                So the comparison is best done with AHC incomes – to do otherwise would disguise the current level of poverty.

                • Thanks for the explanation Psycho Milt. (The question-marks on my comment did indicate a genuine question.)

                  I do think it would be better to have food costs and housing costs being the items that became cheaper, over the things that have; food and shelter being more necessary than Tv’s, cars etc

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