Poverty #3 still lacks solid evidence

Jess Berentson-Shaw’s third article on child poverty makes more claims that giving more money, no questions asked, to poor families is the best way to deal with poverty.

Berentson-Shaw is described as ‘a science researcher at the Morgan Foundation’ but there is a lack of scientific backing to her articles. I have asked the Morgan Foundation for details.

The latest article is Bad parenting is not the reason for child poverty

The single most effective action we can take to improve the lives of children in poverty is to give parents money, no questions asked. In two previous articles, I’ve shown that when parents in poverty are given more money, they use it to better the lives of their children.

She hasn’t shown that beyond some vague references. She has provided no scientific backing to her claims.

I suspect that many in New Zealand will express both shock and total disbelief that the evidence could possibly support this conclusion. At the heart of this shock is the common belief that children in poverty suffer because of bad parents, not the lack of money.

In part we believe this myth because our focus on “child” poverty has separated in the public’s mind these children from their families. The children are innocent and need our help therefore we glibly conclude that the parents are “guilty”: guilty of ignorance and abandonment of their parental responsibilities.

She makes alarming generalisations there without any details to back up her claims.

New Zealanders love to perpetuate the image of the “mad, bad, poor parent”, but it is a lazy, inaccurate and dangerous story to tell because it has led us to put our best efforts into the least-efficient solutions.

It could be suggested that Berentson-Shaw is telling a lazy or inaccurate story, unless she can provide credible substantiation.

In reality, stress and limited resources interact with each other to determine children’s well-being.

Take learning to read, for example. A family who can’t afford to buy books for children may also have less time, ability and energy to read to their child. We know that being read to is crucial for later learning, so this problem creates a gulf in skills between the haves and have-nots that no school can hope to bridge.

This example is alarming.

Has Berentson-Shaw done any research into how much no questions asked additional cash will go into buying children books? And whether it will increase the time spent reading to children?

Reading to children and encouraging children to read are important for education.

New Zealand ranks highly in literacy rates but there are still a large minority who don’t have adequate educational outcomes – in 2002 there were 76% of 25–64 year olds attaining at least upper secondary education, meaning 24% didn’t. (Statistics New Zealand).

And this report from 2013 from Stuff: Experts appalled as literacy rates continue to flatline

While the rest of the world’s literacy rates have been improving, New Zealand’s have flatlined for more than a decade, education experts say.

In a report published yesterday, Massey University researchers say schools’ approach to literacy is “fundamentally flawed.

Research showed those pupils achieving the least were unlikely even to finish the reading recovery programme, Prof Tunmer said.

“A significant number of the lowest-performing 6-year-olds are excluded from reading recovery because they are considered unlikely to benefit, or are withdrawn early when they do not meet expected rates of progress.”

Ministry deputy secretary Rowena Phair acknowledged concerns for those with low levels of literacy.

“We have consistently said that it is no longer acceptable to allow up to a fifth of our learners to complete their schooling without the literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed in a modern economy.”

It is claimed that “as many as half of New Zealand’s prisoners are functionally illiterate”.  (Howard League)

Just giving more money to poor families is unlikely to suddenly change interest in literacy in poor families.

My guess is that most poor families manage to read to children and provide them with books – I grew up in a very poor family but went to the library regularly. But those poor families without an ability or interest in reading are unlikely to change on their own just because they are given more money.

Berentson-Shaw concludes:

What the evidence tells us is that children in poverty do poorly not because they have irresponsible parents, but because they live in families under stress. Give them money to release the pressure valve and families and children do a whole lot better. It is not 100 per cent effective of course, but it gets closer than anything else we have tried.

What evidence? Berentson-Shaw may have some but that isn’t apparent.

Again, the generalised claims without substantiation here are alarming from a “science researcher”.

What if the Government has committed to billions of extra spending and “what is left” is largely the same? Cut the cash and look at other ways of dealing with entrenched problems? Or just keep increasing spending and see what is left after that?

First, we need to remove the financial stress then we deal with what is left.

How much will it take to “remove the financial stress”. Most average families experience ongoing financial stress throughout much of the two or three decades of bringing up kids.

Most people probably don’t think they have enough money to live stress free lives.

In 2016, the Morgan Foundation will release the findings of our investigation into families and children in poverty in New Zealand.

I hope their findings are far more evidence and science based than this series of articles by Berentson-Shaw have been.

Leave a comment

90 Comments

  1. I would support your comments about the apparent lack of a scientific basis to her conclusions. The narrowness of her reasoning is apparent when we look at the reading and access to books argument she uses. When growing up, my parents could not buy books due to lack of money as well as isolation from large bookshops. The whole family were however enlisted in the local library service as members from an early age and we were encouraged at school to visit the library as a group as well as a recreational visit during holidays. We were avid readers, as were all of our classmates, including the large numbers of Maori children who shared the same access and facilities as we did. The ones who missed out seemed to be those bus kids who had to help at milking when they got home, and before school. But their parents often intervened and helped them to meet reading skill requirements. It was not a perfect utopia, but the system worked because the whole community were involved. Things are different now. Technology has advanced and the internet and TV have taken over. Communities seem to be closing down libraries or reducing hours of operations and facilities on cost grounds and lack of demand. The dumbing down of the kids continue as evidenced by the numbers now graded as illiterate. Giving parents more money will not solve this problem – can you?

    Reply
    • Timoti

       /  5th January 2016

      ‘Giving parents more money will not solve this problem – can you?”

      Is that a question, a challenge or a dig?

      Reply
    • “…. The whole family were however enlisted in the local library service as members from an early age and we were encouraged at school to visit the library as a group as well as a recreational visit during holidays. We were avid readers, as were all of our classmate….”

      Library use is but one example of the free things a “good parent” as opposed to a “bad parent” does to enhance a child’s learning experience. The only things that stand in the way of this are lack of intent, disengagement or abject ignorance.

      It is discombobulating that anyone can advocate the giving of money without strings to any parent whose child is grossly underperforming. That this money would somehow enhance said child’s educational outcome is wildly off the mark.

      Jess’s assertion that – “A family who can’t afford to buy books for children may also have less time, ability and energy to read to their child” is nonsensical. First of all, there is nobody in NZ that needs to want for reading literature to give a child. How much of a bubble do they exist in that they do not have skills to access either charity groups (Books in Schools etc), state assistance or friends or family with the time orinclination to pass a book or two down or take the person to a library. Yes, people who don’t bother do exist but theirs is not poverty of purse, it is either poverty of character, illiteracy and entrenched ignorance. It is the latter we need to address.

      I have a Headmistress friend whose school teaches children from dozens of cultural backgrounds, most of whom are immigrants. She loves teaching them because she has parental support. Yes, they’re often very poor, but the difference is her children’s parents VALUE EDUCATION. Meanwhile out in South Auckland her colleagues lament the utter lack of parental involvement. Once again this is very definitely an impoverishment, but in the duty of care area.

      How we address this shocking dereliction of care is the problem as I see it. No amount of money will change the prevailing attitude in this underclass.

      Reply
      • Pickled Possum

         /  5th January 2016

        “Library use is but one example of the free things a “good parent” as opposed to a “bad parent” does to enhance a child’s learning experience.”

        Libraries are a hot bed of dis ease …
        Jan Tytgat from the Catholic University of Leuven http://www.pubfacts.com/author/Jan+Tytgat
        analyzed 10 most popular books at Antwerp library
        he found cocaine and herpes simplex virus type 1.

        The cocaine found on the books was not enough to give the reader a high
        but enough to FAIL a drug test
        The virus did not pose a public health risk
        .Popular books have 25%-40% more microbes and bacteria than less popular books.
        The findings were similar to research carried out by Brigham Young University in 2011
        Time to get a Kindle … if you can afford one.

        Reply
        • kittycatkin

           /  5th January 2016

          We don’t live in Antwerp. If the cocaine wasn’t enough to get stoned on, it’s not really a problem, is it ? 10 books is a tiny sample.

          Reply
          • Pickled Possum

             /  6th January 2016

            KcK ‘not enough to get stoned on’
            but if you were having a work drug test for your most important handsomely paid job and got tested positive for using cocaine … after a night at the library
            then it would become a very serious problem.
            Cries of No No not me officer……..all I have been doing is reading books at the library … yea right said the officer.
            Remember The Fugitive he was innocent.
            10 popular books with many copies of each popular book.
            We are often bombarded with study results from far off places with no apparent relevance to NZ. Statistics made to fit our little country
            The point I was trying to make that I seem to have lost in translation
            was that although reading books from the library is free it comes with hidden dangers from microbes bacteria and viruses. Germs all up children’s noses in their skin before you know it they are sick at home with some virus, would you then go from good parent to bad parent following on the same reasoning from traveller, who I was replying to. Well you would be and before you say that’s a bit OTT
            To many poppy seeds can really cause you to fail a drug test, looking for hard facts to go with the little gems from my fact finding days I found this site http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/04/poppy-seeds-really-can-cause-fail-drug-test/
            I read somewhere people want hard facts and stats to back up any thing that
            they don’t know about or really even give a toss about any way or even understand fully ….so it’s not true unless there is a link to a person or group who know alll about it… even better if they make lots of money.
            Explaining isn’t losing it’s having your say to put your side of the story across
            While you are looking at the head side of a coin you can’t see the tail side but it’s a fact it’s there.
            Explaining doesn’t mean you are losing only losers say that.

            Reply
  2. Timoti

     /  5th January 2016

    You summed that up well, Pete.

    I took a computer course at EIT. Just a basic course. There were seven people in my intake.

    Before the course started, tutors gave everyone a pre test to determine where they were- education wise. The test was not hard eg 200-150. Which is the odd one out: Apple. Pear or Potatoe? etc. Three people from the group were removed and told they would need remedial lessons should they wish to continue.

    The next pre test was a New Zealand Literacy exam that’s used nationwide. It starts off relatively easy but is challenging towards the end. Your results put you into one of five categories: basically illiterate to being able to comprehend a scientific thesis. We lost another two people from our group

    I believe literacy my be worse than the already bleak statistics show

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  5th January 2016

      ‘ Which is the odd one out: Apple. Pear or Potatoe? ‘…is the answer….Apple,because the other 2 begin with P?

      Reply
      • Or is it Potatoe because that’s spelt incorrectly?

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  5th January 2016

          That Dan Quayle had more influence than I thought!

          Reply
        • Kevin

           /  5th January 2016

          Apple because it’s the name of a company. 🙂

          Reply
        • Timoti

           /  5th January 2016

          Spelt incorrectly….what?

          Reply
          • Potato is spelt ‘potato’, derived from the Spanish patata, from batata.

            ‘Potatoe’ is an uncommon variant used in the US until Dan Quayle was ridiculed for spelling it that way in 1992.

            Many other variants have been used, for example pittayatee, pertaayter, and pertater as well as the shortened tater. But the correct spelling is potato.

            Reply
            • Timoti

               /  5th January 2016

              Not when I was at school, it wasn’t, Pete. We are about the same age. Were you taught to spell it “Potatoe? I was, circa 60s primary school.

              I had no idea there was so much angst around this word.

              I will concede Potato is now considered the correct spelling, and has been for a while. But it seems I am guilty of falling foul of consensus opinion and not bad spelling. Although, ironically my spelling is bad.

            • I don’t remember it being spelt anything other than potato. Online dictionaries all have just that variation. I have a school dictionary from the 90s that spells it only that way, plus a pocket Oxford from 1969 that spells it that way.

            • kittycatkin

               /  5th January 2016

              I have an 1893 edition of an 1877 dictionary, and it has potato.

            • Timoti.

               /  6th January 2016

              “I have an 1893 edition of an 1877 dictionary, and it has potato” Are you sure?

              .

        • kittycatkin

           /  5th January 2016

          Pear, because (in this case, though not in any dictionary) it ends with an r ?

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  5th January 2016

            ???

            Reply
            • kittycatkin

               /  5th January 2016

              ??? indeed. I must have been distracted and been thinking of the misspelt potato and run the two things together. Oh dear. It really is ??? and as we can’t edit, it will stay like that forever (hides head in embarrassment) 😀

            • Timoti.

               /  6th January 2016

              “The tutor told us letters or names would have no bearing on the answer. Not as it turns out, many of those present would have understood.’

              Oh,dear. We can’t edit. I have so enjoyed the comments. Plenty of laughs. Glad to see you are over your grief and memory loss.

              Maybe, a trip to Sydney would do you good. Take in the sights and visit rellies………snigger

      • Timoti

         /  5th January 2016

        No dummy, its potatoe. The tutor told us letters or names would have no bearing on the answer. Not as it turns out, many of those present would have understood.

        However, top marks for pointing out a problem with non culture fair IQ tests.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  5th January 2016

          dummy?…..potato! …capiche!

          Reply
          • Timoti

             /  5th January 2016

            Yeah, Pete put me right.

            Reply
            • Maggy Wassilieff

               /  5th January 2016

              Obviously a poorly designed question.

              Three possibilities…. all correct
              1. Some folks would choose the 2 -P words as one group;
              2.Other folks would know that apple & pear are fruits, potatoes are stem tubers… (but, potatoes do produce fruits); and
              3. apples and potatoes store well, pears don’t

        • jamie

           /  6th January 2016

          No it’s pear, because they don’t go well with cheese.

          Reply
  3. Iceberg

     /  5th January 2016

    She will no doubt appear on the Green list at some point.

    Reply
  4. Kevin

     /  5th January 2016

    Most parents, rich or poor, when given money for their kids, will spend it wisely. But you’ll always get parents who will waste the money on booze, ciggies and pokies, and those parents are more likely to be lower socio-economic for obvious reasons.

    I sympathise with Shaw’s argument. However if we’re going to hand out money why put a “you must be poor” (whatever that means) condition on it? In other words I see it as an argument for a universal basic income with no questions asked. Unfortunately though while UBI sounds great in theory it is unworkable in practice for various reasons.

    Reply
    • jamie

       /  6th January 2016

      I pretty much agree with you there (except I’m more optimistic about UBI).

      Most parents will do the right thing by their kids most of the time. That’s just human nature.

      The few that don’t will need special help or attention of some kind anyway. There are always exceptions but it’s not worth designing the whole system around exceptions.

      Reply
  5. Joe Bloggs

     /  5th January 2016

    I’m not necessarily defending Jess Berentson-Shaw, but there is a vast difference between writing a paper for credible peer-reviewed journals and writing a piece for light-weight 30 second attention span media.

    I can remember years ago an academic talking with me about writing stylistically to one’s audience – an academic audience has different expectations and demands much more rigour than the average Joe on the streets. Isn’t Berentson-Shaw is writing to the second audience here? An audience with an active vocabulary of barely 500-800 words….

    I don’t expect to see in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, reference lists, literature reviews, methodology section, etc., in the MSM, That’s why I have reservations about everything I see/read/hear in ‘popular’ media

    But I expect to see some of that rigour if/when the Morgan Foundation release their ‘report’. And if Berentson-Shaw were to publish in a scientific journal then I expect to see every statement supported with citations from credible sources with high journal impact factors.

    Reply
    • Maggy Wassilieff

       /  5th January 2016

      It is usual scientific practice to publish your research (with methods, data, results) before you deliver your puff pieces.
      This pre-announcement of conclusions is just a means of making sure Joe and Jane Public are on board with the message, just in case some well deserved criticisms of the research later come to light.
      You are being played, folks.

      Reply
  6. I work with children and families on a daily basis and could provide lots anecdotal evidence counter to Berentson-Shaw’s. My overall impression is that troubled kids start with troubled parents who are almost always avoiding their responsibilities towards their kids. I can’t see how giving more money to those who already squander what opportunities they have will improve the situation.

    Reply
    • True in my opinion.

      We need to relentlessly target the child’s education and health before 7yrs old. Let’s push the boats out on intensive remedial reading and ensure these kids to be able to access information independently of their knowledge bereft homes. Resourcing an army of literate volunteers to impact the six year old child’s ability to read is key. Much later than that and they’ve learned avoidance and coping strategies keep teachers off their backs and the little blighters see themselves “outside” and alienated from he mainstream. It’s a very, very hard job to address the disparity after 7yrs old as by then their illiteracy has impacted their learning journey and self esteem.

      Reply
      • Pickled Possum

         /  5th January 2016

        DR. Maria Montessori would not agree with your view.
        “The content of our lessons will promote mindful responses to human questions and enable children to make wise and creative choices about real life lived in community, not mindless reactions lived in a shallow, sensational, quick-fix mass media culture.”

        Montessori is not about buildings or pieces of man-made materials, it’s about the assisting the development of the human spirit
        Anne Frank proved that.

        “Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire ‘to make him learn things’, but by the endeavour always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence. If to this end we must consecrate ourselves …… it will be a work worthy of so great a result.”

        Montessori is the single largest educational philosophy in the world with 22,000 Montessori schools in more than 100 countries on six continents.

        Children deserve more than is currently being served.
        Didn’t john key come from a ‘poor’ family and excelled when his mother received an inheritance.?
        which according to some she spent it all on him.

        Reply
        • Montessori wasn’t dealing with kids from deprived homes. These kids have been deprived since birth

          Reply
          • Pickled Possum

             /  5th January 2016

            Montessori has been dealing with children from deprived homes and naughty children who don’t fit into the norm at state schools since it’s inception in the slums of Rome in 1907.
            The next Montessori teacher you meet ask how many children did they teach that the state school pronounced unteachable.

            I am not saying that there are no rubbish parents who keep their children in poverty by there own greedy needs, .
            I’m just suggesting a better way to teach children of sad disinterested woefully un educated (fill in your word of choice) care givers/parents.

            55% of prisoners in NZ are illiterate and they will have many children
            will some be poor and illiterate
            Will these children living in poverty go through the process of pretending to learn – eat their lunch while making lots of friends and tick the boxes for the school so they can receive their money with no accountability for the school’s failure to teach them the ABC’s only to come out the other end of their short uneventful education without the ability to make good sound choices for their life?.
            I think there is an underlying reason why so many children are deprived of a great exciting education and it’s ‘there is only room for a few at the top’ attitude
            you say “These kids have been deprived since birth”
            If these children have been deprived all their lives where were the teachers doctors social workers police??
            did they all throw these children into the to hard basket while collecting their mortgage paying wage.
            where were the people who are paid good money to keep an eye on all of this ‘bad parenting’ you talk of
            Are they up town having a latte …. talking about the sad neglected children and their equally sad and hopeless parents all the while patting themselves on their backs for not being poor .

            Reply
        • Goldie

           /  5th January 2016

          Pickled Possum: “Didn’t john key come from a ‘poor’ family and excelled when his mother received an inheritance.?
          which according to some she spent it all on him. [sic]”

          Really? Evidence for that?

          Reply
      • Timoti

         /  5th January 2016

        As I understand it, Montessori school are part funded by the New Zealand Education Ministry. That means Montessori meets Paulo Freire, either factually or in spirit. Freedom of thought verses indoctrination. Such a delicious irony.

        I see Aotearoa Montessori talks of hui and tikanga. Long term prognosis doesn’t look good.

        “Didn’t john key come from a ‘poor’ family and excelled when his mother received an inheritance.?
        which according to some she spent it all on him.”

        Anything to back that up? Or is this a socialist bed time story?

        Reply
    • Kevin

       /  5th January 2016

      I don’t see how either but I think Shaw is talking about overall. So while some parents will waste the money overall giving money to the poor will be beneficial to society as most parents will spend the money wisely.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  5th January 2016

        Just how will free money do anything but create more poor who see no need to work?

        Reply
        • That’s an issue that the kid poverty socialism ignore, or they want to make not working a more attractive option. Associated with this are attempts to make low paid menial work an unnecessary option, but I haven’t seen them explain who would do the work.

          Reply
        • Blazer

           /  5th January 2016

          like the parasites of the financial system who produce nothing you mean!

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  5th January 2016

            I would be surprised if more than 20% of workers are involved in producing anything. Farmers, manufacturers and builders are a small fraction of the workforce now. Most workers are in service industries now and financial services are one of them.

            I doubt that you know what you are talking about anyway.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  5th January 2016

              as far as knowing what you’re talking about…how do you explain this?…’ create more poor who see no need to work?I use ‘produce’ as in being productive…you know a hairdresser who cuts your hair as opposed to a paper shuffling Wall St type involved in rigging markets and laundering money.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  5th January 2016

              There are many thousands of people working in the financial system. As in every sector small minority are cheats and criminals.

              You are making a snide, empty comment so typical of the Left in an attempt to obscure the obvious truth that giving away free money is simply a disincentive to work for everyone, honest and dishonest alike.

            • Blazer

               /  5th January 2016

              this is ‘snide’….I doubt that you know what you are talking about anyway.!As for your observation re small minority being cheats and criminals,the record shows it is a large MAJORITY..J.P Morgan,Citi,HSBC,Barclays,Goldman,Morgan Stanley etc,not forgetting LIBOR!

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  5th January 2016

              Not snide, just accurate. Clueless would have been snide and accurate.

              “The US financial services and insurance sectors employed 5.99 million people in 2014”

              “In 2014, the total number of people employed in this [financial services] sector in the UK amounted to 1,055,500 (over one million).”

              Tell us how many criminal convictions there have been?

            • Blazer

               /  5th January 2016

              thats just the point …almost no real convictions…the buck stops at the top and get your google eyes on again and you will realise that the norm with Eric Holder att/gen at the time, was just large fines(billions all up) for fraud etc ,because jailing the crooks…could endanger the whole financial system of capital….believe it or not!

            • Timoti

               /  5th January 2016

              Dear me. And to think I was pulled up for spelling Patoto incorrectly.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  5th January 2016

              So the record does not show what you claimed. Of course we knew that from the start. So it was both irrelevant and wrong which is entirely par for the course for the Left.

        • Kevin

           /  5th January 2016

          It rests on the majority of poor parents spending the extra money wisely on their kids.

          Reply
      • I’ve just been down to Glen Innes Pak n Save. GI is a relatively poor suburb with a high proportion of State Housing and beneficiaries. It’s ticks every “deprived” and “poor” box, according to people like Jess and her ilk. Out the impoverished poured; their trollies brimming with chips, twisties, sausages, soft drinks, ice cream and barely a green in sight. Around the corner to Marsic’s Fsheries (sadly not open) but there were the residents waddling out of the bakery with armfuls of sugar and fat. Anyone who sees the way these kids are fed now can only despair about how much extra sugar their tiny bodies will be forced to accommodate if money was handed over holus bolus. Yes these people aren’t the only poor we have, but they’re the ones I see.

        Unless extra taxpayer charity is targeted towards the social, health and educational advancement of kids, I’m not in favour of it. I’m off to the Third World shortly and I know that I will be seeing people living on roadsides who work 3 times the hours Kiwis do. They’ll sell their kidneys and skeletons to educate their children. I find it hard to believe that anyone can justifiably say that suffering children are doing so because of anything but their parent’s delinquency.

        Reply
        • @ traveller – I shall henceforth entirely disregard Berentson-Shaw’s material in favour of your unbiased, anecdotal observations at the local supermarket.

          New Zealand children are suffering in a First World sense, and Third World comparisons are facetious and irrelevant. Well, that is unless we – everyone – are going to lift everyone to a uniform standard of living?

          The use of the “Third World Comparison”, common on here, always leads me to think, “Yes, let’s despire to poverty just like they’ve got”.

          And yep, that’s my third word coined on behalf of the English language in just 2 days!!! “Despire” (c. copyright) The only examples I can find of it seem to be typos used for “despite”. I wish I could get paid for coining words.

          Reply
          • Not just the anecdotal supermarket, it’s decades of living and working in New Zealand.

            I don’t reside in the pigeon hole you place me in, but I’d have thought you the first person to relate to stereotyping and pomposity.

            Reply
        • Kevin

           /  5th January 2016

          To be fair though it’s cheaper and more convenient to buy junk food then healthy food. The other thing that interests me about places like G.I. is despite all the State Housing there are a lot of expensive cars parked outside a lot of the houses. Different priorities I suppose.

          Reply
          • “it’s cheaper and more convenient to buy junk food then healthy food.”

            I question that. Junk food encourages eating far more than is required.

            You can eat quite cheaply with relatively healthy food if you by and grow wisely.

            Reply
            • kittycatkin

               /  5th January 2016

              I question that, too. I can make good, healthy, vegetarian food for a lot less than buying takeaways-and when I use things like pasta sauce, I buy them ready-made. Pam’s tomato and garlic pasta sauce is probably better than anything I can make.

              I am a very lazy cook, as I hate cooking-so if I can make good, healthy meals, anyone can.

              Who, when they have a paper of chips. doesn’t eat the whole lot ? That’s why I don’t have them now :-/

            • @ PG – and where pray tell did you get the wisdom from?

            • From a childhood spent in what would now be classed as poverty.

            • Kevin

               /  5th January 2016

              It’s more the convenience side I think.

          • Yes, different priorities, different conditioning, different responses to market forces, different aspirations … the same aspirations …. “the hedonistic need to acquire the symbols of wealth” (Cultural Narcissism) … but nobody seems to research this stuff, do they?

            The sense I get all the time: Here’s a problem. It’s plainly evident this problem is a very deep pool. Let’s have a very shallow look at the surface tension of it.

            Reply
  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  5th January 2016

    Gareth Morgan has gone the way of Slater, hiring dipsticks that discredit him and thinking an avalanche of crap is more effective than a trickle of wisdom.

    Reply
    • Joe Bloggs

       /  5th January 2016

      well said!

      Reply
      • Timoti

         /  5th January 2016

        Tautoko

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  5th January 2016

          no one too concerned about spelling errors I suggest…more like…’No dummy, its potatoe.’….recalcitrance is your crime.

          Reply
          • @ Alan – I’m inclined to agree, and I think we should throw a (relative) avalanche of resources at a identifying and addressing the problem, including asking “them”, the poor.

            The possible advantage of a trickle of wisdom is the government can postpone genuinely identifying and addressing the problem, e.g. Why we create, allow, tolerate and possibly sustain poverty in our “advanced”, posperous First World society.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  5th January 2016

              Considering for many decades we have had by far the biggest department of State dedicated to identifying and alleviating poverty I think you can take it for granted that the avalanche of resources has been snowballing merrily down that mountain for a long, long time.

              The trickle of wisdom needs to be focused on why that hasn’t worked, not on piling more snow on the slipway. To give English and Bennett credit, I think that is exactly what they are doing. Morgan et al are just more slush on the snowfield.

  8. “In part we believe this myth because our focus on “child” poverty has separated in the public’s mind these children from their families” – a most useful generalisation.

    Two big Elephants in this room I reckon. One Elephant already identified = What are we talking about when we say “education”? Or indeed, what do we mean by “improve the lives” of children from poor families, the actual topic of Berentson-Shaw’s article? (Which I agree with Joe Bloggs is “popular” or lite-academic)

    Nowadays, many a functionally illiterate child (by my standards) can still program or set-up an electronic device faster than I can. (An experiment in Indian-speaking villages in India proved they can also learn very well on computers programmed in English) The same child may also have a larger or more refined txt language vocab than me? Possum’s “keep burning that light which is called intelligence” is most pertinent, as is the question, “What is the child and, inextricably, the child’s family, doing with their intelligence in the world”?

    We can decry Berentson-Shaw’s “statistics” and scientific method all we like, while making vague assertions and accusations about “bad parents”, implying socio-economic correlation and other generalisations like drug, alcohol and pokie dependence or whatever, but the simple fact is we (equally or moreso) lack definitions, statistics and scientific data about what constitutes a “bad” parent, actual numbers of them, what proportion of the population or of the population “all parents” they form and their demographics. We’re about as ‘bad’ as Jess in this department, which I consider is not actually bad at all. The intentions of all concerned are good. I think what Jess brings to the table is a discussion most timely, relevant and well worth having.

    Second Elephant – the causes and effects of poverty on our society and why we create, allow and tolerate it.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  5th January 2016

      “what Jess brings to the table is a discussion most timely, relevant and well worth having”

      Nope. An absurd and unjustified claim supporting the Left’s perennial advocacy for throwing other people’s money at their supporters disguised as a problem is never timely, relevant or worth discussing.

      Reply
      • You mistake me saying “a useful discussion” for “I support the idea”.

        Allow me to correct you. You are quite wrong.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  5th January 2016

          No, I didn’t assume that at all and neither did my comment imply that.

          Reply
  9. BTW I thought that raising children was work? It used to be considered so.

    Reply
    • It can be very hard work, but also one of the most rewarding things one can do so can be well worth the effort.

      And as with everything some are better than others at it, and importantly some are not good at all at it, hence the failures that result regardless of financial situations.

      People earning a lot of money can easily be as stressed as people who earn little or no money.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  5th January 2016

      It is indeed work, which is why so many have the children and then avoid it. And why consequently our jails are so full of illiterates.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  5th January 2016

        so ipso fact being illiterate prevents you bringing up children…strange logic in your world.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  5th January 2016

          Upside down as usual. Abandoning or ignoring your children results in their illiteracy and frequently also results in crime.

          Reply
    • @ belledejourNZ – I do enjoy your comments, but I regret to inform you of some home-style inorganic truths here. Aside from the briefest nano-second of human history, you thought wrong!

      It was argued parenting “should be” considered work for the briefest micro-instant sometime before 1984. For less than the blink of an eye, the raised awareness of hippie and feminist alike created this extraordinary idea, which, as you know, was both threatening to the status-quo and inherently two-part difficult and ultimately self-defeating.

      The latter conundrum left the hippie-feminist, and especially the feminist, standing at a cross-roads; parenting work or “the work force”? The very idea of parenting being “work” in some way separate from “life” actually played into the hands of the new orthodoxy.

      Threat was countered and difficulty exploited by what came to be termed the “Economic Reforms” of Rogernomics and beyond. These reforms applied several very cunning ideas to the situation.

      1) All life is economic. Therefore economic measures and measurements must be applied to all life. (Its incredibly simple really). People are Human Resources or “units of production and consumption”. Work must be measureable in terms of “productivity”. Advantage is gained from “efficiencies” … et al ad infinitum. You’ve heard it all. (Parenting, it transpires, is intrinsically inefficient!)

      2) Not enough KPIs and other economic criteria, assessments and easily measured “outcomes” can be found to apply to “parenting” to warrant it being called work, or they are too complicated to assess clearly. Child rearing can therefore be dismissed and not considered work in the economic sense. Work is “induction into the work force” and this must especially be applied to the hippie-feminist threat, for whom it remains useful only to pay lip-service to the idea of parenting-as-work until they are re-acculturated, e.g. they become too stressed by work to remember their novel idea (which might lead to other ideas like UBI?).

      3) The Biggy – people will do parenting regardless of whether it is considered work or not.

      4) The Real Biggy – Reformed economics (“life”) requires people (“units of production and consumption”) to universally all work (“engage in paid employment”) regardless of whether they are parents or not (to achieve productivity outcomes through efficiency). Above all they must be indentured to the new economic paradigm, which, because it can be loosely called “capitalist”, mostly avoids associations like “Big Brother”.

      I’m told there is an antidote – Turn off the media. Grow your own food. Home school your children etc …

      Reply
  10. Pantsdownbrown

     /  5th January 2016

    Jess Berentson-Shaw’s articles are surely some sort of belated April fools joke………..however she is technically correct that if we give poor people lots of free money child poverty will decrease due to the pathetic way poverty is measured in this country. The problem with that solution is that REAL child poverty in this country will be unaffected as the extra money does not trickle down to those children in need.

    Combating poverty is not a simple ‘one-approach’ task as many factors cause it and the combinations of causes will differ from family to family. In some cases bad parenting is a major cause so trying to dismiss it totally as Jess Berentson-Shaw does is as wrong as saying giving more money will totally fix it. If money was the answer than the increased money provided over the past decade or so (Working for families etc) to those less well off would have meant today’s child poverty should be less not more.

    The first thing this country needs to do is find out how many children are in real poverty and then specifically target those children. The child poverty measure we currently use is so ridiculous & overstated that the general public become apathetic and dismissive therefore doing a disservice to those children in genuine need.

    Reply
    • “The first thing this country needs to do is find out how many children are in real poverty and then specifically target those children.”

      I think that in general is the current Government approach. However those who think suggest a blanket ‘no questions’ approach claim that identifying those in real need labels and stigmatises them.

      Reply
      • @ PG – despite my search just now I can’t find the official figures or provide a link. However I believe I have a fairly good memory. The main thing is the discrepancy.

        While figures range from UNICEF’s 270,000 – to – CPAG’s 330,000 children living in poverty, the National Govt’s latest policy targets those they believe are in critical need of extra assistance, that number being (from memory) 16,153.

        I can’t help thinking there’s a disconnect here?

        Reply
        • The higher numbers are based in income statistics, not on actual deprivation or need. The lower number is presumably a specific target for something, but I think the Government targets different numbers of people in different ways. For example extending free medical care for children from age 5 to age 13 would benefit a much larger number of children.

          Reply
    • @ Pantsdownbrown – I tend to agree with most of what you say. Here’s Gareth Morgan himself on WFF –

      “If the goal was to improve the lot for the low-paid generally, a reduction in the lowest tax rate (with the lost revenue recovered by a rise in the top tax rate) would have sufficed.

      WFF can significantly boost incomes and (here’s the beef), not just low ones”.

      Family, 2 children, 13 – 15, $60,000 = $6,552
      Same family $80,000 = $2,600

      He then cites a family with 2 children on one minimum wage paying rent of $450 per week can receive $214 WFF tax credit plus $225 accommodation supplement.

      I see myself as being a person of moderate and perhaps even relatively high intelligence, so naturally I ask, “Why are we doing this”?

      Oddly, I don’t automatically think, “its because these people are bludging low-lifes exploiting the system, lazy, useless parents, substance abusers or problem gamblers”, or even, “its creeping, cumulative, piecemeal redistribution “these people” have demanded”. It wasn’t “them” who instituted the payments. They receive them. Who wouldn’t if they are offered. The wealthier families don’t appear to turn down WFF?

      I think, “Something is very wrong with this system. Systemically wrong. We are covering up what’s wrong with this system using all sorts of payments”. In this sense what I see are “System Justification Payments”.

      By all means target specific children in need to begin with. But I believe we’ll have to dig a whole lot deeper to fix things in any real sense. And I reckon digging deeper and fixing it is going to be pretty scarey for a while for a lot of people. If nothing else and no matter how well or poorly, Jess Berentson-Shaw is at least digging deeper by provoking debate. I’m giving her credit for that regardless.

      I don’t think Berentson-Shaw is saying “giving more money will totally fix it” and I base this on her saying, “It is not 100 per cent effective of course, but it gets closer than anything else we have tried”

      Reply
  11. Mike C

     /  5th January 2016

    I thought sucking $$$ totally anonymously from heaps of muggins to chain smoking alcoholic shits was already being done by stupid Sparks “Give a Little” Website 🙂

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  5th January 2016

      There are many real causes on Give a Little….but I can’t see that something like hoping to raise $60,000 for the Bartletts who’d already been given so much was a worthwhile cause. I haven’t looked at Give a Little for ages, but it does seem open to the greedy as well as the needy.

      I do give to charity (quite a lot, actually) but I am fussy about which ones, and the Bartletts were not one of them. Oxfam, Red Cross, Hospice, Fred Hollows…

      “Give a Little to send Kittycatkin and Mike C on a luxury world cruise. Target $30,000”

      Now THAT would be a worthwhile GaL cause..

      Reply
      • Mike C

         /  6th January 2016

        @Kitty

        I am sure that Timoti and a few others in here would be more than happy to give a lot to a Give a Little “Send Mike and Kitty to a place in the World that doesn’t have Internet” Cause. LOL 🙂

        Reply
  12. John Schmidt

     /  5th January 2016

    How come no one has ever asked the budget advice people whether it’s possible for low income people to provide for their children and provide them with the basics. They are ones who work with pepple and families to deal with budget difficulties. Surely they have a much better handle on the situation than all the politicians, media, academics and commentators. I have known a budget advice person working for the citizens advice bureau and the common theme was bad life and purchasing choices that is the primary cause of the difficulties and the budget advice is
    simply rearranging priorities.

    Reply
  13. Goldie

     /  6th January 2016

    It appears that “Dr” Jess Berentson-Shaw was very naughty when in her article for “no strings” payments, she quoted from The Economist that “Unconditional Cash Transfers work better than almost anyone would have expected. They dent the stereotype of poor people as inherently feckless and ignorant”.

    However, she provided only a part of the quote! The next sentence is, “But Conditional Cash Transfers are usually better still, especially when dealing with the root causes of poverty and, rather than just alleviating it, helping families escape it altogether.”

    Which completely opposes her claim for “no strings attached” money payments.

    Berentson-Shaw has been less than honest in her claims. She should be exposed as a less than honest advocate rather than a serious researcher.

    Reply
    • @ Goldie – Good finding! I wish you’d post the link in a case like this, but assuming it is true it seems an extraordinary oversight by someone claiming to be a social scientist?

      Indeed, it cannot possibly be an oversight, so I see no need to say “less than honest” when “plain dishonest” and “deceiptful” are more accurate.

      Morgan and company are developing a reputation for backing losers, aren’t they? Cats – although I tend to agree on that score – Red Peak and now this. I hope it doesn’t wash over onto the general UBI discussion which I think is very worthy and warrants serious investigation/consideration.

      There still remains a strand of usefulness in her argument, not for unconditional cash payments, but in any challenge to “the stereotype of poor people as inherently feckless and ignorant”.

      Reply

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