Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New book says Britain has eased child poverty in last decade

A new book says that Britain has a better record in reducing child poverty than the United States or the rest of Europe. The book says that Britain has been able to improve child poverty during the past decade, while everywhere else has rising or constant numbers.

From the Guardian, writer Randeep Ramesh introduces us to the new book and it's author.

Jane Waldfogel, professor of social work at Columbia University, spent a year examining Labour's record and found it had turned the tide of child poverty in a way that was "larger and more sustained than in the United States". Her book, Britain's War on ­Poverty, shows that the number of children in "absolute poverty" had fallen by 1.7 million since 1999. Latest figures show 13.4% of British children remained in "absolute poverty" whereas in the US the figure was approaching 20%.

Prof Waldfogel, who spent the last year at the London School of Economics, said she was bemused by the political debate over "broken Britain". She said: "It's just not right. Progress in the United States stalled in 2000 and then child poverty rises again. The gloom and doom about the state of children and families in Britain is not justified by the data."

Relative poverty, says Waldfogel, has risen but this is due to the wealthiest in society seeing incomes balloon – leaving the rest behind. However, redistribution had provided real benefits for the poor.

Sustaining government spending would be difficult in the recession, she admitted, but the solution was to shift the burden by increasing the minimum wage or lengthening working hours.

In international terms, Britain's ranking of "wellbeing of young people" also improved: compared with other rich nations, this measure saw the UK move up from 17th place in 2001 to 12th in 2006.

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