On July 1st the Conservative government announced that it is planning to scrap the current official measure of child poverty, which categorises as poor those who are on less than 60 per cent of the median household income (with adjustments for household size, housing costs etc.). The government plans to replace this ‘relative poverty’ measure with one that incorporates indicators of life chances other than money/income, including drug addiction and family breakdown. In Dr Andrew Dunn’s new blog, he explains why he thinks the Conservatives are right to abandon the ‘relative’ definition and measure of poverty, but wrong to include problems other than money/income in their new measure. He argues that the ‘relative’ definition of poverty is flawed as it neglects ‘absolute’ conditions: If, for example, you are at the relative poverty line in Britain you are, in one respect, in the same condition as someone at the relative poverty line in one of the world’s poorest countries, as your income is the same proportion of the average person’s income in your country. But in another respect (and hence overall) you are in a far, far better condition – you are much further from starvation as you have much greater purchasing power. He draws upon his own research in illustrating the gap between public views about what constitutes real poverty and the experiences of people close to the UK relative poverty line. In suggesting that the Conservatives are wrong to include social problems other than money/income in their new definition of child poverty, Dunn points out that all serious commentators on poverty are agreed that the problem is purely about a lack of material resources and nothing else.
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