No single figure about child poverty tells the whole story

3 December 2019
What was claimed

There are half a million more children in poverty since 2010.

Our verdict

This is what’s estimated to have happened to children in relative low income households, comparing 2010/11 to 2017/18. But this is one measure of several and the alternatives show smaller increases or even slight falls.

What was claimed

There are 400,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 2010.

Our verdict

Incorrect. Main measures can be used to show anything from a fall of 100,000 to a rise of 500,000.

“Actually there are 400,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 2010.”

Boris Johnson, 1 December 2019

“Boris Johnson has lied about the Conservatives’ record on child poverty, telling the Andrew Marr Show that “there are 400,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 2010”, despite figures showing an increase of half a million.”

Labour party, 1 December 2019

Boris Johnson was wrong to claim that there are 400,000 fewer children in poverty since 2010. None of the main measures of poverty in the UK show this.

Labour’s claim that there are 500,000 more children in poverty needs context. This is true according to one measure—relative low income, taking housing costs into account and measuring since 2010/11. But it’s not the only measure of poverty, and while this particular measure has increased while others have gone down.

Measuring poverty is often subjective: it means different things to different people. That said, all of the main measures place the number of children living in poverty between 3.7 and 4.6 million in the UK, which is anything from a quarter to a third of all children.

Based on one of the most comprehensive measures, child poverty fell between 2010 and 2015, but has been rising since. The latest figures suggest it’s now back to roughly what it was in 2010.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has suggested that reductions in people’s entitlement to benefits and tax credits are likely to be factors behind the recent rises.

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