Why we need to redefine what poverty is

We are constantly hearing about poverty in the news. Usually, it’s some official source trying to reassure us that it’s coming down, and is on track to be halved by the year 2015 (from the 1990 level), in line with the Millennium Development Goals. But what do we actually mean by “poverty”? 

What the official sources invariably mean is the proportion of the population of the developing world who are below the “$1-a-day” poverty developed by the World Bank some 20 years ago (and revised from time to time since).

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Co-production: the crucial cornerstone of the Big Society

The emphasis on the Big Society over the past two days is, in many ways, enormously hopeful.  It puts people’s ability to make thing happen at local level at the heart of what the coalition is doing.  It also assumes an optimistic view of human nature and human capacity.

There are worries about how far it can go to change an unequal society, as my colleague Anna Coote has explained in her briefing paper on the subject.

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Cameron’s Big Society will leave the poor and powerless behind

Contrary to what you may hear today, David Cameron's plan for a "Big Society" threatens to undermine social justice and widen inequalities. While there is some effort to encourage people in poor neighbourhoods to do more for themselves, there is nothing in the plan to make sure that everyone – regardless of background or circumstance – gets a fair chance to participate or benefit.

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Modernising Henry George

Economists have traditionally considered nature to be infinite relative to the economy, and therefore not scarce, and therefore properly priced at zero. But the biosphere is now scarce, and becoming more so every day as a result of growth of its large and dependent subsystem, the macro-economy. More

Spectre of ghettoisation threatens South East as housing benefit is hammered

One of the great joys of living in London is its social and economic diversity. One minute you can be walking past million pound mansions in Kensington and the next you will find yourself in the middle of a housing estate populated by a mix of native London working classes and first or second generation immigrants from all over the world. Get on a bus or a tube and a similar mix confronts you. 

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Three lessons from the Treasury’s Spending Challenge fiasco

You’ve seen the Treasury’s Spending Challenge website, right? The one which asks members of the public to tell the government how to cut. More

Well-being, advertising and another product placement consultation

We recently heard the depressing news that the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has decided that the most appropriate people to fund the Government’s Change 4 Life initiative - which encourages young people and their families to eat healthier foods and be more active in order to support their well-being – could include the junk food industry.  And in return More

We need a bigger plug for the enterprise gap

“Politicians need to be pulled up short sometimes,” says nef researcher Dr Faiza Shaheen.  “They need to be confronted by evidence that what they say isn’t quite true.”

Faiza is a labour market economist.  Her analysis of the likely impact of waiving national insurance contributions on new enterprise – not nearly enough – is likely to have an important impact as policy-makers look more closely at exactly how new business could create jobs.

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Little banks, big success

You might expect that, after one of the worst banking crashes in history, that the smallest banks of all might be suffering the most.  But, at least in the USA, the credit union sector is not only doing rather well, they are doing better than the big banks.

There are 7,600 credit unions in the USA, though many of them are giants compared to their equivalents in the UK, at least in England (Ireland’s credit unions are much more established, on both sides of the border). 

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Population bomb or consumption explosion?

Today, on World Population Day, the Royal Society has launched two year inquiry into human population growth and how it might affect social and economic development.

Contrary to what some might have you believe, discussing population isn’t a taboo. Rather the debate is heavily polarised between those who champion (directly or indirectly) coercive population control and those who believe following good, gender-aware development and poverty reduction is all that is necessary.

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