UNICEF, a branch of the United Nations, has just released an interesting report on child poverty during the Great Recession. The report’s results have been reported widely and are distressing. It shows that since 2008 2.6 million children in rich countries have sunk below the poverty line. In 23 of the 41 countries analysed, child poverty has jumped since 2008. In Ireland, Croatia, Latvia, Greece and Iceland rates rose by over 50%.
Change in child poverty, 2008 to 2012 (anchored in 2008)
I should say at the outset that I am generally convinced by what I’ve read in this report. It is a very important topic and one that needs to be debated more. But for people serious about analysing poverty, the report is not good enough. I’ve been puzzling over a few things in particular.Making assumptions is all well and good in economics research: it is often unavoidable. But researchers usually spend a long time justifying their assumptions, and showing what happens when they make different ones.But in this report the authors make assumptions that are not adequately justified. Take their definition of “poverty”. Usually academics define poverty as those people with incomes below 60% of their country’s median. That’s a relative measure, of course. Here, though, the authors use income figures from 2008—before the crisis really hit—as a “benchmark” against which to compare the incomes of …
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