Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Just The Facts, Ma'm

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution hastens to correct what appears to be a misleading report on children in poverty.
No, A Majority of US Public School Students are Not In Poverty  
In widely reported article the Washington Post says a Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty. The article cites the Southern Education Foundation:
The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches.
Eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches, however, depends on eligibility rules and not just income levels let alone poverty rates.... Frankly I suspect that this study was intended to confuse the media by conflating “low-income” with “below the poverty line”. Indeed, why did this study grab headlines except for the greater than 50% statistic? It is very easy to find official numbers of the number of students in poverty according to the federal poverty standard....
If Mr. Tabarrok is correct and surely he is then we don't need to be nearly as concerned about the level of children in poverty as some deceptive people want us to be. Only one fifth of our children are in poverty, not over one half. So what's the hubbub, bub? Not only are there only 11 million children living in poverty, most of them aren't even, shall we say, of the right culture and therefore have nobody to blame but themselves, not that Mr. Tabarrok is blaming anybody.
In 2012, approximately 16.0 million, or 22 percent, of all children under the age of 18 were in families living in poverty; this population includes the 11.1 million 5- to 17-year-olds and 5.0 million children under age 5 living in poverty. The percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty varied across racial/ethnic groups. In 2012, the percentage was highest for Black children (39 percent), followed by American Indian/Alaska Native children (36 percent), Hispanic children (33 percent), Pacific Islander children (25 percent), and children of two or more races (22 percent). The poverty rate was lowest for White children (13 percent) and Asian children (14 percent).
Mr. Tabarrok is not insensitive to the plight of these children but is able to put it in perspective.
The number of school-age children living in poverty today is relatively high and not surprisingly did increase with the 2008 recession and its aftermath (green line in figure below – the numbers here differ slightly from NCES but the time line is longer). But recent numbers do not look like especially remarkable compared to the history.
He shows a chart that demonstrates child poverty fell from 27.3% in 1958 to 14.0% in 1968. Evidently the War on Poverty had an effect. By 2013 it was at 19.9%. The War on The Poor worked as well. But that is liberalspeak.

Mr. Tabarrok muses on and suggests the economy as a "possible reason," as another possibility he also notes the cultural aspect of one's lifestyle, for as we all know a poor mother should have gotten an education, found employment, married an appropriate and employed partner, and waited until comfortably placed to have children. Not that Mr. Tabarrok implies anything negative towards any member of any particular race. Indeed, he does not mention race at all.
It’s certainly worthwhile discussing why poverty has increased. The economy is one possible reason as are issues to do with family formation and marriage rates. Another possibility is immigration. A higher poverty rate caused by the immigration of more low-income children is compatible with everyone becoming better off over time and not necessarily a bad thing. Those are just a few possible topics worthy of investigation. I don’t claim that any of them are correct. I do claim, however, that we won’t get very far understanding the issue by shifting definitions and muddying the waters with misleading but attention grabbing statistics.
Mr. Tabarrok is right if he is right, although he does not claim he is right. The last thing we need is bad statistics. Poor immigrant children (Hispanic) might be poor as children but they will achieve in time. It is their way. It appears that marriage might be the key for lowering poverty in certain cultures, as Mr. Tarrabok has hinted, and a very worthy subject for investigation.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

The War on The Poor worked as well. But that is liberalspeak.

Indeed. Both sides do it, therefore, thus, and so on we need to be bipartisan.

Rich people need more money.

Susan of Texas said...

It's about ethics in poverty journalism.