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The extinction of poverty in London

Summary:
There is no poverty in London today. At least, there’s no poverty in London using one of the two definitions being used here:Poverty is no longer quite so prevalent as in Booth’s day: Booth concluded that 35% of Londoners lived in poverty at the end of the 19th century, and the Trust for London’s latest figures indicate that 27% do so today. But compare that with a national average of 21% and it’s clear there is a problem.Booth’s definition of poverty was 10 to 20 shillings a week for a family of four or five. Take the top end of that and upgrade for inflation (of goods and services, not the price of labour) and we get perhaps £100 a week. For four people. £25 each, or £3.50 per person per day.There is no one, not one single person, living in London today on that sum. Therefore there is

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There is no poverty in London today. At least, there’s no poverty in London using one of the two definitions being used here:

Poverty is no longer quite so prevalent as in Booth’s day: Booth concluded that 35% of Londoners lived in poverty at the end of the 19th century, and the Trust for London’s latest figures indicate that 27% do so today. But compare that with a national average of 21% and it’s clear there is a problem.

Booth’s definition of poverty was 10 to 20 shillings a week for a family of four or five. Take the top end of that and upgrade for inflation (of goods and services, not the price of labour) and we get perhaps £100 a week. For four people. £25 each, or £3.50 per person per day.

There is no one, not one single person, living in London today on that sum. Therefore there is no poverty in London. Not unless we change the definition of course.

Booth’s was the value of everything. Rent, clothing, health care, food, saving for the pension no one would survive to collect. Today’s definition is living in a household earning less than 60% of median income, suitably adjusted for household size. Which is how we can have killed poverty stone dead and yet still be measuring its existence.

Of course, we did have to change that definition. After all, how can careers - and political parties - be built upon the idea of fighting poverty if the thing being fought no longer exists?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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