Child poverty and parental responsibility

Judith Collins has revved up the child poverty debate, blaming it on, amongst other things, a lack of parental responsibility.

Not surprisingly this has stirred up a lot of debate.

RNZ: ‘I see… a poverty of parental responsibility’

Ms Collins was challenged at the Police Association’s annual conference in Wellington today by a delegate, who said poverty was making law enforcement harder.

The delegate said his officers had been very busy with gangs, which he said were often filled with people who had experienced poverty as children.

Ms Collins responded by saying the government was doing a lot more for child poverty in New Zealand than the UN had ever done.

In New Zealand, there was money available to everyone who needed it, she said.

“It’s not that, it’s people who don’t look after their children, that’s the problem.

“And they can’t look after their children in many cases because they don’t know how to look after their children or even think they should look after their children.”

Monetary poverty was not the only problem, she said.

“I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring.”

As the MP for Papakura, she saw a lot of those problems in south Auckland, she said.

“And I can tell you it is not just a lack of money, it is primarily a lack of responsibility.

“I know that is not PC, but, you know, that’s me.”

Collins is correct, to an extent, but it is much more complex than her provocative statements acknowledge.

There is not enough money available for many people and many families to have a comfortable lifestyle. Making ends meet is a constant and extremely challenging battle  for many.

Poverty of parental responsibility, poverty of love, poverty of caring are all issues adversely affecting many children. But so are mental health issues, drug abuse, health problems. And so are lack of regular reasonably paying job opportunities.

And especially in some areas housing costs and the availability of adequate housing.

I don’t know if Collins also spoke about these things.

But what has been reported has stirred up a storm of condemnation.

But overstating some aspects of a wide ranging problem are hardly any worse than overstating the degree of poverty and the number affected badly. It’s no worse than saying the Government doesn’t care about kids or poor people.

Collins provoked, possible off the cuff, possibly deliberately, and will probably cause a few Government headaches trying to deal with the fallout.

But what she said is no narrower and unfair than many of her and the Government’s critics.

There are serious issues that need to be dealt with better. But long lasting solutions won’t be easy, they won’t be quick and they are unlikely to be cheap.

Poll on issues and immigration

IPSOS immigration poll:

Right-wing voters and long-term immigrants are less pro-immigration. Recent, pro-immigration people are more likely to be from India, whereas the long-term migrants who are mainly from the UK are now less favourable towards immigration.

Curia has a summary of an Ipsos poll on immigration:

Most important issues:

ipsospollnzissues

On immigration:

ipsospollnzimmigration

Also (via Curia):

  • A net 52% agree immigration should be targeted at professions with shortages
  • A net 48% say refugees can become highly valued contributors to society
  • A net 35% say immigration has made NZ a more interesting place to live
  • A net 28% say immigration is good for the economy
  • A net 30% agree immigration has placed too much pressure on public services
  • A net 15% are confident most refugees will integrate
  • A net 12% say immigration has made it harder for those here to get jobs
  • A net 10% say there are too many immigrants in NZ
  • A net 10% say terrorists who pretend to be refugees will enter NZ
  • A net 7% say immigrants are often better workers than those already here
  • A net -15% want an increase in the number of refugees
  • A net -35% say the number of immigrants who can move here should increase
  • A net -40% want no refugees accepted at all

There were 16545 people surveyed in 23 countries, including New Zealand.

• The New Zealand data was collected via one single survey of 505 adults. Some questions were omitted and some added, to ensure better suitability for the New Zealand context.

That’s a relatively small sample size.

The IPSOS survey summaries:

  • Housing affordability, cost of living and poverty concern the most New Zealanders, but age and political views influence people’s concerns.
  • Older people are more likely to say that immigration to New Zealand has increased a lot.
  • New Zealanders are much more likely to say immigration has had a positive impact.
  • New Zealand-born people have a more negative view of immigration than immigrants.
  • New Zealanders are generally positive about immigrants, but 53% feel they are pressuring public services and 54% do not want an increase in immigration numbers.
  • New Zealanders are less likely than most to feel that there are too many immigrants, but 53% agree that they are causing pressure.
  • Although 45% of New Zealanders feel that immigration has made it difficult to get jobs, New Zealanders are the most likely to feel that immigration has been good for the economy.
  • New Zealanders are the most likely to say immigrants with higher education should be given priority to fill skill shortages and that they make New Zealand a more interesting place to live.
  • Seasoned travellers and immigrants are more open and positive towards immigrants, while those New Zealandborn and poorly travelled are more ‘anti’.
  • Right-wing voters and long-term immigrants are less pro-immigration. Recent, pro-immigration people are more likely to be from India, whereas the long-term migrants who are mainly from the UK are now less favourable towards immigration.
  • While the majority of New Zealanders believe refugees can integrate well and contribute a lot, there is a concern about terrorism and little appetite for increasing the refugee intake.
  • New Zealanders are much less likely than those in the other countries surveyed to say ‘close our borders entirely’.
  • New Zealanders are much less likely to say terrorists pretending to be refugees will enter the country to cause havoc.
  • New Zealanders tend to be more confident about refugees’ ability to integrate.
  • Only 14% of New Zealanders knew the correct number of refugees allowed into NZ each year. 22% overestimated the number.
  • Those who over-estimate the size of the NZ refugee intake have a more negative view of refugees’ ability to contribute to society and likelihood to be terrorists.
    Those who over-estimate the size of the NZ refugee intake have a more negative view of refugees’ ability to integrate into NZ society and are more likely to feel we should stop admitting ALL refugees.
  • Most in EU countries think Britain was wrong to leave, for both Britain and the EU. New Zealanders are less concerned and Australians even less so.
  • New Zealanders are the most concerned about the effects on Britain than any other non-EU country surveyed, and are more concerned than Australians.
  • New Zealanders are the most concerned about the effects on the EU than any other non-EU country surveyed, and are more certain than Australians.
  • New Zealanders are more saddened and worried about future arising from the Brexit vote than Australians, who are also less likely to have an opinion.
  • 27% of New Zealanders believe that the Brexit vote will be bad for the New Zealand economy.
  • New Zealanders are more likely than those in EU countries themselves to think that the EU’s influence on the world stage will be reduced. Australians are less concerned.
  • Of all the non-EU countries surveyed, New Zealanders were the most likely to feel that both the UK and EU will become weaker post-Brexit.
  • The majority of New Zealanders felt that both the UK and the EU will become more divided and less integrated over time.

I think the poll questions on Brexit have little value here. My guess is that most New Zealanders will have only a vague knowledge at best of what Brexit was about, and our opinion is pointless anyway.

Curia has a link to the full poll details at  Ipsos poll on immigration

From 90% extreme poverty to 10%

The Communist Party took over China in 1949.

  • In 1981 90% of Chinese lived in ‘extreme poverty’.
  • In 1976 Mao Tse Tung died.
  • In 1978 Deng Xiaoping took power and started major economic reforms.
  • In the 1990s China’s economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty.
  • In 2010 10% of Chinese lived in ‘extreme poverty’.

This has changed as China has rapidly transitioned between socialism to a capitalist/market driven economy, just about entirely in the era of ‘neoliberalism’.

10% of 1.3 billion people is still a lot of people in extreme poverty, over 100 million people, but it is a huge improvement in living standards for Chinese people overall.

 

ChinaPoverty

Source – Share of the population living in extreme poverty, 1981 to 2010

Extreme poverty is defined as living with an income of less than 1.90$ per day. All incomes are adjusted for inflation over time and for price differences between countries and expressed in 2011 PPP international dollars.

Change has been less dramatic elsewhere but the move out of poverty has also been significant.

  • India – from 53% to 21%
  • Bangladesh from 70% to 44%
  • Uganda from 95% (1988) to 33%
  • Vietnam from 49% (1992) to 4%

 

A steady hand and inspiration to alleviate poverty

There has been a lot of political and media pressure put on the Government in the weeks running up to next week’s budget. But the Government will already have decided on how it is going to gather and distribute taxes.

Stacey Kirk suggests that a continued steady hand is required, but with some added inspiration on how to deal with real issues like housing and health that are adversely affecting the lower end of our society.

A steady hand with a magic wand, needed to alleviate poverty in Government’s 8th budget

It’s no coincidence political campaigning on behalf of New Zealand’s poorest has reached a zenith in the weeks leading to the budget. 

But that doesn’t change the fact people are living in cars, children are unable to learn at school, and many families struggle to pay their power bills, let alone rent.

And this all under a Government which has made it a priority to address rising inequality in New Zealand. 

It’s a little unfair to suggest it hasn’t made a difference in an incredibly complex area.

During Bill English’s seventh budget last year, the Government delved deep into left territory to surprise everyone with a $25 increase to welfare payments for families with children – the first rise beyond inflation since 1977. 

Aside from the added political bonus of leaving an opposition near-silenced on budget day, since coming into effect this year, it has made a difference to families. 

And it definitely wasn’t money for nothing. The Government made it clear it expected people – including single parents – to work more hours, and boost budgeting skills.

The year prior, free doctors visits for under 13s was a direct appeal to struggling families. 

In the week to Thursday, the Government has to show a steady hand at the till, as it were. It also needs an inspired idea. 

John Key has set a course of lifting families out of poverty, so it’ll be those left behind on which the Government is measured. 

Don’t expect a mass of money throwing (and Labour and Greens will have their “not enough” tweets and bleats prepared) , but there should be something to try and close the gap between poor and the better off – by lifting the poorest without dragging down the rest.

Understanding Poverty in New Zealand

AW has pointed at an excellent report on poverty in New Zealand, written by the New Zealand Initiative (Bryce Wilkinson and Jenesa Jeram).

No matter what your views on whether we have poverty here or not, what sort of poverty we might have or how many people are suffering from poverty this is a worthwhile contribution to the discussion.

Poorly Understood

The State of Poverty in New Zealand

Are more than a quarter of a million New Zealand children living in poverty? Big numbers make shocking headlines, and invite questions about New Zealanders’ empathy.

This report argues that such claims are hyperbolic and are potentially counterproductive in influencing public opinion. Ministry of Social Development estimates show that different measures of poverty yield markedly different results.

Fewer than half of children in households experiencing such relatively low incomes are also experiencing material hardship under the ‘standard’ European Union deprivation measure. Moreover, some children in higher income households are experiencing such material hardship.

Even so, far too many children, and indeed adults, are living in miserable circumstances, despite massive efforts and spending by well-meaning and untiring public and private organisations.

However, as public opinion appears to appreciate, earned income can be low relative to expenses for many reasons, from unlucky circumstances to poor choices. Low earned income and unaffordable housing can be caused in part by government policies that limit access to jobs and quality education, that unduly raise housing costs, or that hold back productivity growth.

Problems of such complexity emphasize the need for nuanced responses, based on specific knowledge of individual circumstances, by both government and nongovernmental bodies.

This report outlines the state of poverty in New Zealand, providing the basic facts and tracing out the history of government and private support for preventing and alleviating hardship. It will form the basis for The Initiative’s coming report on welfare policy.

If you want to understand about poverty in New Zealand this is an excellent resource.

POORLY UNDERSTOOD THE STATE OF POVERTY IN NEW ZEALAND (PDF)

Rapidly declining poverty

Poverty levels in New Zealand are often talked about, and disputed. What shouldn’t be disputed is a significant decline in the percentage of people living in poverty in the world over the last 200 years.

Rapid population growth meant that the number of people living in poverty increased – until recently, when that began a decline as well, although there still about a billion people living in ‘extreme poverty’.

Our World in Data has details on poverty levels.

Almost all people in pre-modern times lived in poverty. This has changed dramatically over the last few decades; more and more people have left the extreme poverty of the past behind.

In 1820, the vast majority of people lived in extreme poverty and only a tiny elite enjoyed higher standards of living. Economic growth over the last 200 years completely transformed our world, and poverty fell continuously over the last two centuries. This is even more remarkable when we consider that the population increased 7-fold over the same time (which in itself is a consequence of increasing living standards and decreasing mortality – especially of infants and children – around the world).

In a world without economic growth, an increase in the population would result in less and less income for everyone, and a 7-fold increase would have surely resulted in a world in which everyone is extremely poor. Yet, the exact opposite happened. In a time of unprecedented population growth we managed to lift more and more people out of poverty!

PovertyDecliningPercentage

Even in 1981 more than 50% of the world population lived in absolute poverty – this is now down to about 14%. This is still a large number of people, but the change is happening incredibly fast. For our present world, the data tells us that poverty is now falling more quickly than ever before in world history.

The first of the Millenium Development Goals set by the UN was to halve the population living in absolute poverty between 1990 and 2015. Rapid economic growth meant that this goal  – arguably the most important – was achieved (5 years ahead of time) in 2010.

The number of people living in extreme poverty increased until the 1970s but since then has decreased with increasing rapidity. People who oppose neoliberalism say they want to return things to how they were before the 1980s.

PovertyDecliningAbsolute

There is still a large poverty problem – about a billion people still live in extreme poverty. But if the recent trend continues this should reduce significantly and quickly

A primary reason for reduced poverty is economic growth.

In 1820 only a few places in the world achieved economic growth – and only to a rather small extent. The progress of the last 200 years was achieved as economic growth brought higher incomes to more and more people in the world.

A correlation between he relation between average income and the share of the population that lives in absolute poverty suggests that in a society with an average income around 10,000 International Dollar, absolute poverty is abolished.

Source: Max Roser (2016) – ‘World Poverty’. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: http://ourworldindata.org/data/growth-and-distribution-of-prosperity/world-poverty/

The current Purchasing Power Parity conversion factor for New Zealand is 1.47 so 10,000 international dollars equates to $NZ14,700 average income (source)

 

Must work harder Anthony

Anthony Robins (at The Standard) has praised Lizzie Marvelly’s  poverty piece at The Herald and makes a suggestion to the media – while he claims to be an academic he wants them to publish things he agrees with (he calls that fact-based narrative) and to not publish things he disagrees with (he calls them execrable nonsense and isolated and inconsistent snippets).

He does this in a footnote to What to do about poverty (and a suggestion to the media).

Footnote (I’m an academic, I love footnotes!) on a suggestion to the media. Almost everything you publish is a piece in isolation. There is a better way.

Take The Herald for example. You publish Marvelly’s piece on poverty today, just a week after (re)publishing Whyte’s excerable nonsense. If you had any kind of overview / foundation of established fact / ongoing context on the topic of poverty you wouldn’t be publishing such wildly inconsistent pieces (the Whyte article would have been rejected as the nonsense that it was).

Take climate change as another example, no responsible media should be publishing denier nonsense these days.

Now you (the responsible media) might say that you’re offering a range of opinions. But when some opinions are clearly and provably nonsense that excuse is just an abdication of responsibility. It’s laziness, clickbait, and harmful.

I guess I’m asking for context and sanity checking in the media. Fact-based narrative instead of isolated and inconsistent snippets. Harder work, but much better for everyone.

So Robins praises Marvelly, who shames and guilts anyone who won’t go along of her framing of ‘poverty’ in New Zealand and her vague suggested solutions.

And he wants the media to reject opinions that don’t fit with his views. That certainly isn’t better for everyone.

It’s harder work providing balance and a wide range of views, even if they might not be the same as your own. And much better for a relatively free and democratic society.

Footnote

Related to this are comments by ‘weka’ at The Standard.

On the Open Mike discussion on Marvelly:

The other problem I have with this is that it allows the deserving poor memes to continue which in turn allows the neoliberalis to keep treating so many people like shit.

I get why child poverty is focussed on. For socially intelligent people, if you address child poverty you are in fact addressing family poverty (not so much for the neoliberals and socially inept), and that in turn creates more healthy societies.

‘Socially intelligent’ (people she agrees with) versus socially inept (people she disagrees with).

And in response to Robins’ post:

Good punchy post r0b.

Re the footnote, does this mean the standard will no longer be publishing comments that are AGW denialist or poverty denialist? I hope so (although I appreciate the work involved may not make that possible).

She wants even more censorship at The Standard than Robins suggests for the media.

And Wayne Mapp takes Robins to task:

This item by Anthony Robins seems more like a request for Herald censorship than having a contest of ideas. It seems that you would prefer that arguments and positions you don’t like not to be published.

On climate change, while i accept that it is happening and is manmade, there does seems to be a genuine scientific debate about the rate of change. Surely a legitimate matter for the media to report.

Whyte’s piece was clearly an headed as an opinion piece, and not from a regular Herald columnist. His basic idea, on the best way to measure poverty, is clearly not nonsense. There is a genuine debate about whether poverty should be measured on whether a child is deprived of things that we see as essential in New Zealand, or whether a percentage of average incomes will in essence give the same answer.

If you disagree with his theme so strongly, submit your own item to the Herald.

More broadly modern media in all its forms allows any views to be aired. Or should these debates be confined to new Media, and that old media be tightly regulated. Just writing that sentence shows the impossibility of that. I for instance subscribe to The Spectator. There would not be one view expressed in The Spectator that you would agree with.

So what? That is what free speech means.

But forums like The Standard aren’t so interested in free speech. They seem want to want free speech as long as you are from the labour left and don’t threaten their opinions with alternative views or awkward questions.

 

 

 

 

What to do about guilting and poverty

The poverty campaign continees today in the Herald: Lizzie Marvelly: The only debate is what to do about child poverty. Who is Lizzie Marvelly?

One of the best things to do about ‘poverty’ in New Zealand is to stop calling it poverty.

There are serious issues involving deprivation, hardship,  income and social inequities.

But in trying to frame it as poverty, in particular child poverty, campaigners have alienated people that would otherwise be more than happy to see real problems dealt with better by the Government.

Anti-poverty campaigners have overstated their case by using a term that is widely seen as inappropriate in New Zealand. They keep using a Godwin equivalent term and fail to see that it is counter-productive to their cause.

Marvelly says:

Poverty isn’t generally associated with the Kiwi childhood.

She’s right, and that’s the problem with trying to address it.

I… wonder whether the people asserting that poverty isn’t an issue in New Zealand have ever left the comfortable bounds of their own privileged neighbourhoods. I wonder whether they realise just how ignorant they are.

Marvelly is the one who is ignorant, of the problem she is a part of. Most people realise there are social and income and would like to see more done about them.

But they don’t like being preached ‘poverty’ and they are hate being guilted by those who are promoting a misguided agenda.

What is poverty? It’s a question that’s been given a considerable amount of airtime. While a number of thresholds and frameworks have been suggested, for a certain group of people, none will ever be good enough, for if we accept the validity of a measure we are then duty bound to accept what it is telling us.

That sounds like nonsense.

In a country where an unacceptable number of children live below the much-debated poverty line, we are becoming accustomed to hearing the lives of Kiwi kids and their families being thrown around as political hot potatoes.

While we can argue about poverty, its definition, origins, and how it is conceptualised until we’re blue in the face, such meaningless politicking does nothing to show people the reality of poverty.

But the reality of ‘poverty’ in New Zealand is that it is a term that is counter productive to addressing real problems.

The idea that people living in poverty are somehow to blame for their fate is attractive if one wants to absolve oneself from any sense of responsibility, but it is a notion that I find deeply sad.

I find it sad that Marvelly blasts anyone who is repelled by her own blame game.

When did we become so hardened and self-centred that we began to believe that those poorer than us deserve their suffering? When did we become so divorced from our own communities that we stopped caring about the families around us?

She is making things up about anyone who won’t buy into her narrative. This is not going to win over any support. It alienates people who care but don’t like being abused.

Our political parties found that they could shelve their disparate ideologies to sort out superannuation … why can’t they show our youngest and most vulnerable citizens the same level of care?

Mravelly must have missed all the party arguments over how to deal with the escalating cost of superannuation  over many years.

The wellbeing of our children should never be up for political debate.Nor should we feel disempowered.

The wellbeing of our children is our our responsibility – ‘our’ meaning parents and wider families.

Does “should never be up for political debate” mean that parents and families should be able to ask for and get whatever they want from the Government without any debate?

What the heck does ‘feel disempowered’ mean?

There are so many things we could do to make the lives of Kiwi kids better: feeding kids in school, bringing back a means-tested child benefit like the one scrapped in the “mother of all budgets”, requiring a warrant of fitness for rental properties to prevent children growing up in cold, damp, leaky houses, and simply helping out in our neighbourhoods.

The first step, however, is for us to look out into our communities and really see other people, to realise that even in the most privileged areas, poverty is just five minutes down the road. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s real.

The first step is to drop the ‘poverty’ framing. It repels rather than attracts support.

The second step is to stop guilting and blaming everyone who doesn’t accept the framing of people like Marvelly.

And then we need identify issues and problems intelligently and responsibly, and consider what might be the most effective way of dealing with them with limited and competing resources.

Poverty not black and whyte

Poverty in New Zealand is examined again, this time by ex ACT leader Jamie Whyte in Poverty statistics suffer from paucity of common sense (NZ Herald).

There is no poverty in New Zealand. Misery, depravity, hopelessness, yes; but no poverty.

The poorest in New Zealand are the unemployed. They receive free medical care, free education for their children and enough cash to pay for basic food, clothing and (subsidised) housing. Most have televisions, refrigerators and ovens. Many even own cars. That isn’t poverty.

Why then do we keep hearing that more than 20 per cent of New Zealand children live in poverty? Those who tell us this do not mean by “poverty” what most people do. They have a statistical definition: you live in poverty if your household’s income is less than 50 per cent of the national median (after tax and housing costs, and adjusted for the number of adults and children in the household).

For example, the Herald recently published an article by Susan St John, spokeswoman for the Child Poverty Action Group, that claimed 220,000 children live in poverty because they “fall under the stringent 50 per cent after-housing-costs poverty line”.

Alas, the measure is not stringent; it is ridiculous.

Whyte goes on the explain why he thinks the claims of poverty in New Zealand are ridiculous.

Why would anyone use such a preposterous definition of poverty? Interviewed byThe Guardian, British poverty campaigner Peter Kenway defended it on the grounds that “it is a simple and reliable statistic which has played a huge part in propelling poverty up the policy agenda.”

It is far from reliable, and what it “pushes up the policy agenda” is not really poverty but inequality, which, in rich countries, is not the same thing. Poverty statistics based on this measure are misleading anyone who believes them.

Or the so called poverty statistics are being misused by people promoting an agenda with hints of socialism.

David Farrar agrees at Kiwiblog in Whyte on poverty.

And there is both strong criticism and agreement in a discussion at The Standard.

Weka:

Good grief. Couldn’t get past the first paragraph. Since when has there been free ‘medical’ care in NZ? What a dick.

Quite a bit of medical care is free for quite a few people in New Zealand.

Lanthanide:

Looks like a pretty reasonable article, to me. He eventually does at the end say the statistic is measuring inequality, not poverty, which I think he should have mentioned much earlier (short attention spans and all that). Also his sudden overuse of the word ‘pauper’ was strange.

Yes, Whyte’s repeated use of the term ‘pauper’ was odd, it seems as out of place in a New Zealand context as ‘poverty’.

This exchange illustrates part of the problem with the poverty campaigning.

maui:

I think what the poverty campaigners are trying to highlight is the people going without proper housing and proper food (amount and quality). In the 1st and 3rd world’s I would say this is a pretty good definition of poverty.

Lanthanide:

Then they should talk about that, instead of talking about the number of people who live in a household with less than 50% of the median household income.

But even defining poverty as “going without proper housing and proper food” can invite debate over what is judged proper housing and food.

The poverty debate is far from black and whyte.

Poverty is a State of Mind

Guest post by Alan Wilkinson

How to define poverty in developed nations is a subject of much earnest angst and statistical controversy.  The dictionary definition such as “The state of being extremely poor” invites the question of whether, in our typically mixed capitalist/socialist states with welfare safety nets, anyone really qualifies compared with the worst of the undeveloped world.

To meet that challenge, various “internally relative” economic measures are promoted – such as the current “60% of the median household income” which is currently popular in New Zealand and has been adopted by the Commissioner for Children.  This kind of measure is then extrapolated into statistical measures of inequality based on distributions of income and/or wealth within these countries.

Finally, these statistical measures of inequality have been compared across nations in studies analyzing whether inequality, changes or measures to deal with it affect economic growth.

Further complicating the definition are the historic improvements in wealth, health and standard of living across developed nations.   The elderly are inclined to scoff at claims of hardship such as cold, uninsulated houses and lack of heating or appliances compared with the Spartan homes of their youth.

Finally, there is the issue of lifestyle choice.  Some in wealthy nations may choose to live a simple, non-materialistic life perhaps living off the land in an isolated rural or island location.  By economic measures of income and wealth they may be judged as poverty stricken, but in reality their lives may be satisfying and even idyllic.  In less extreme examples, very many will choose an occupation and way of life that gives them freedom and less stress than an alternative which may provide a higher and/or more risky income or potential wealth.

So we must come to the conclusion that economic measures are a very inadequate assessment of poverty and are never likely to produce agreement on their relevance or effective action to make improvements.  That leads to thinking about the real causes of poverty hardship in our developed societies, particularly as they affect children.  These are not hard to find.  By the time they begin school at age 5 there are huge differences in the abilities and experiences of most poor vs wealthy children.  Not only do these never recover but they widen as children grow older.  The consequence is that these poor children have drastically reduced options in life and vastly less chance of economic success.

In short, real poverty is a state of mind that cripples all future prospects.  Worse, it transmits powerfully from one generation to the next.  This is the curse of stupid beliefs manifesting in destructive behaviours with many aspects.   These include:

  1. Disbelief in education
  2. Belief in violence to solve conflicts
  3. Valuing power over kindness
  4. Disregard for personal or private property
  5. Lack of trust and disregard for the value of trust
  6. Disregard for sexual integrity
  7. Disbelief in reliability and honesty
  8. Disbelief in goal setting or working to achieve goals
  9. Disbelief in investing in the future
  10. Belief in instant gratification
  11. Disrespect for self and everyone else
  12. Rejection of individual and family responsibilities

That is real poverty:  permanent, pervasive and self-perpetuating.  Other people can be economically poor, for example many recent immigrants or young people, but with the right ingrained beliefs that will only be temporary.

Just as individual poverty is best assessed on the quality of the individual’s minds, so it is with nations.  An economically poor nation with good beliefs will not stay poor and will not feel poor.  Honest Government maintaining peace and supporting education, personal freedom and free and open markets will create wealth and prosperity.  The transitions in Asia since WW2 demonstrate the possibilities.  Once again, the personal stupid beliefs above manifest in a country’s leadership or in any significant portion of the population are a recipe for national poverty.  So too are religious, racial and tribal hatreds and conflicts.

In summary then, poverty is best assessed on the basis of the above beliefs and consequential behaviours.  That leads to the conclusion that poverty is best addressed by changing those beliefs and cannot be fixed simply by redistribution of income or wealth.  Almost certainly doing the latter alone will merely facilitate greater and faster spread of the destructive beliefs that comprise real poverty.