Jun 25, 2011

Not allowed to talk about poverty


BC Stats put out a release yesterday with the headline “Low Income Cut-Offs (LICOs) are a Poor Measure of Poverty” and author Dan Schrier gets in a dirty hit right in first paragraph:

Despite protestations from Statistics Canada that LICOs are not meant to be used as a measure of poverty, there are many groups that insist on using them for exactly that purpose.

We’ve heard this before from Statscan, it is not a new line. But it  is perhaps the most bogus argument ever. I have no problem with someone criticizing the shortcomings of the LICO, because no measure of a complex phenomenon like poverty is going to be perfect. There are Low Income Measures (LIMs) and Market-Based Measures (MBMs) too, though they tend to draw the same conclusions about the numbers. In the absence of an official poverty line and numbers, these are what academics and NGOs working on poverty issues will use.

What is irksome is someone from a stats agency, in this case working for the BC government, saying that because the official agencies refuse to define a measure of poverty and release the results, we the public cannot talk about how large poverty is. BC Stats released a similar such piece about a year ago so it clearly is a bee in Mr Schrier’s statistical bonnet.

But really, until you (Statscan, BC Stats or Dan Schrier) develop an official measure of poverty, stop the condescending finger-wagging at people who care about poverty and use LICOs.