Trans Tasman points out that child poverty lobbies are wrong on living standards:
Lobby groups which bleat about child poverty in NZ took a knock this week when independent research showed NZ households have the third highest material living standard in the world for households with a teenager. The research also dealt a blow to those who contend there is growing inequality in NZ society. Using a new measure for wellbeing, Researchers at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research found NZ ranks just behind the US and Canada, and ahead of Aust and all the Scandinavian countries.
Motu is a not-for-profit, non-partisan research institute and received funding for this work from the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of NZ. Dr Arthur Grimes, one of NZ’s most respected economists, says “our new measure focuses on actual consumption of households, which is a better measure of living standards than income. What we found is that we have very high material wellbeing levels. I think this should call into question the widespread negative impression of living standards in NZ compared with other developed countries.” Grimes and Motu researcher Sean Hyland worked from a dataset of household possessions for almost 800,000 households over 40 countries, including all OECD countries.
“Our results show NZ is still a great place to bring up children, at least in material terms. Not only do we have wonderful natural amenities, but contrary to what GDP statistics tell us, most kiwi families have a high standard of material wellbeing relative to our international peers” The study also looked at the degree of inequality in household material wellbeing, which fell in most countries, including NZ, over the period 2000-2012. In 2012, NZ ranked twentieth of 40 countries in terms of inequality, with levels similar to those in the US, Canada and the UK.
Grimes points out most public policy concern is with the living standards of ordinary people, especially those closer to the bottom of the wealth distribution curve, whose living standards are well captured in the data. “If we look across the Tasman, Australia’s households are not quite as wealthy as their NZ counterparts but inequality in Aust. is lower than that in NZ. Overall, these figures suggest we may need to reassess how we look at this country’s economic performance.”
This doesn’t mean everyone has enough nor that we can ignore the needs of those who don’t.
But it does contradict the people who keep trying to tell us that inequality is growing and that up to one in four children are living in poverty.