Friday, January 02, 2009

Interfering With Nature

The Major talks evolution

It's one of the Major's pet topics: WTF do we pay the dregs of society like Karen Matthews to have kids? Why are we interfering with nature, which is desperately trying to evolve us away from the swamp? Wouldn't it be better for all concerned if we worked with nature by paying these people to get sterilised instead? (eg see this blog)

As everyone now understands, Labour's half-baked attempt to "abolish child poverty" has significantly increased the financial incentive for poor low-achieving women to reproduce. And we've recently had some chapter and verse on just how big an effect that's had. (HTP Gerald K)

According to a paper published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (here, but a much more readable summary here):
"Between 1999 and 2003, government spending per child on these benefits rose by more than 50% in real terms, a change that was unprecedented over a 30-year period. Most of the additional spending was targeted at low-income households.

For the poorest fifth of couples with children, the changes increased cash benefits received for the first child by an amount equivalent to a 10% increase in net household income."

You'd expect an additional 10% on household income to have an effect on births, and it most certainly did. The study identifies an extraordinary 15% increase in the birth rate of the lowest socio-economic groups, or an additional 45,000 births pa.

What's more, this increase was on top of a birth rate which was already above that of higher socio-economic groups.

We can see that in this chart, which shows the difference in birth rates between low education women (left school at 16), and high education women (educated at least to 18). Even before Labour's hike in child benefits (the 1999 reform), the low group's birth rate was c 2.5 percentage points above the high group. And post 1999, it's getting on for 4 percentage points higher, equivalent to about 130,000 births pa.

The truth is that Labour's whole approach to child poverty is crackers.

They have set themselves an entirely arbitrary statistical target - that no child should live in a household with an income more than 40% below the median - and they have shovelled in billions to achieve it.

But even if they somehow hit the target - extremely unlikely - that wouldn't "solve" the problem of child poverty. Because these days, as we saw so graphically in the Matthews case, the problem is not about money - it's about ignorance and dysfunctional behaviour. And no amount of income support can sort that out.

Instead, by incentivising even more births, Labour have actually made the problem worse: even more no-hope kids, even more social breakdown, and even more no-hope kids in the years to come.

Nature's way may be a tad brutal for modern tastes, but at least it works towards solutions rather than even bigger problems.

PS We've said it many times, but just for the record, Tyler did grow up on council estate, and did see what Labour would class as poverty. But nobody was undernourished or unclothed or even obviously deprived. And that was 50 years ago, when incomes were a fraction of what they are today. What's gone wrong on those estates since is absolutely nothing to do with money.

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