Saturday, June 02, 2012

African American teenage birthrate and reliance on welfare

The following is posted to support a discussion I am having elsewhere. The Political Scientist is arguing, or seems to be, that teenage birth and recourse to welfare shouldn't be characterised as a problem or 'poor choice' and offering long-acting contraception is the wrong approach.

I have already responded to one claim he cites - "there was likely no correlation between the level of welfare ben­efits and the incidence of out- of-wedlock births" -  at his blog.

Below I address two more:


 "An examination of the rate of babies born to unwed African American teenagers remains virtually unchanged from 1920 through 1990.[39]"

The "rate of babies born" means the number of births per 1,000 15-19 year-old African Americans.

The graphs below show plummeting unwed teenage births to African Americans since the early 1990s. Many individual states had their own reforms well before 1996 - the year when federal reform occurred.

The claim implies welfare benefits had nothing to do with the rate of African American illegitimacy 1920 to 1990 because of its constancy (ignores the steep rise during the 80s).

In which case you would have to conclude that reforms have nothing to do with the tumbling rates after 1990. I don't accept that. Neither do I rule out other factors at play.

The rate has continued to fall by the way with a slight blip somewhere around 2007-08 (from memory).



"...the myth of widespread permanent welfare status proved equally impossible to correct. Numerous reports and studies demonstrated that welfare was a transient state for most recipients and that it served primarily as a temporary safety net during financial crisis caused by job loss or family crisis.[42]

 The Political Scientist reiterates this in a comment to me:

"I’m also aware that you have spent much time and energy arguing for ‘welfare reform’ on the assumption that it creates something that you, and many others, refer to as ‘welfare dependency’.

It is, of course, mistaken but, given the correlational nature of much of the research that is perhaps understandable. We are all prone to confirmation bias."

The statistical phenomenon of short-term reliance hiding long-term is explained below via NZ research into how long people rely on the DPB:

On average, sole parents receiving main benefits had more disadvantaged backgrounds than might have been expected:

·          just over half had spent at least 80% of the history period observed (the previous 10 years in most cases) supported by main benefits
·          a third appeared to have become parents in their teenage years.

This reflects the over-representation of sole parents with long stays on benefit among those in receipt at any point in time, and the longer than average stays on benefit for those who become parents as teenagers.

Had the research considered all people granted benefit as a sole parent, or all people who received benefit as a sole parent over a window of time rather than at a point in time, the overall profile of the group would have appeared less disadvantaged.

 And another explanation I have used before from The Poverty of Welfare:

8 out of 10 years reliant on the DPB is a good enough definition of 'welfare dependency' for me.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Social messaging promoted over basic safety

When you toot a horn you startle and momentarily distract every other driver or pedestrian in the vicinity. Hence Officially:

Using the horn

The horn should only be used as a reasonable traffic warning. It should not make an unnecessary or unreasonably loud, harsh or shrill noise.

 Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has suggested drivers should show their disapproval of others smoking in cars carrying children by tooting at them and wagging their finger like Supernanny scolding a child.

Some are so obsessed with the long-terms dangers smoking can cause that they have left their common-sense parked up somewhere.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I've had it

This poor bastard has had enough.

 (Hat tip Sean Fitzpatrick)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

5 kids, 2 dead, 2 years jail

None of this raises eyebrows any more. There are loads more culprits just getting away with it. Just having the luck scales tip their way. Just avoiding criminality. But the impact on their surviving children is the same. Born to incapable parents, sent to questionable second carers, set on a life of utter insecurity and incomprehension of why. This is New Zealand.

(No need to point out to me that is was probably 6 kids. It is de-humanising to squabble over the adequate and accurate  quantification of humanity.)


For the 'sky is falling' types a paper released by Statistics NZ today describes 'crowding ' since 1921.

"The 1921 Census identified 9 percent of dwellings as crowded. These were dwellings with more than 1.5 people per room (now considered severe crowding)......According to the 1921 people per room measure, less than 1 percent of households were severely crowded in 2006."

Just under 1 in 10  down to under 1 in 100.

The world is a better place in very, many ways.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Families Commission - effectively gone

I didn't really want to think very hard about the implications of the Families Commission 're-structuring' but was prompted to when asked to go on Jim Mora's panel this afternoon (contact from RNZ 2 days running - did a taped interview yesterday's about the 22 percent of babies being on welfare by year-end).

I have concluded that its a de facto abolition. The money from their budget is going into projects that will support the welfare reforms. Parenting programmes for instance. And the new SuPERU unit (Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit) will support, in particular, all the extra 'wrap-around' privately-provided youth services dovetailing with the new Youth Payment.

In 2008, prior to the election, Key told Family First he would get rid of the Families Commission and then hastily retracted his statement when it was published in the DomPost. This is the next best move. Christian conservative Peter Dunne has never been happy with his 2002 confidence and supply trophy which couldn't even define what a family is. The Commission was subsequently hijacked by Labour under Rajen Prasad, now a Labour MP and constant apologist for welfare dependence. For instance, it strongly advocated for the anti-smacking legislation which United Future vehemently opposed. And Dunne won't feel any regret about losing Christine Rankin, a current commissioner.

The Families Commission was largely a waste of time and resources though I will say that recently, some sharper,  more NZ-relevant research emerged.

But we are past talking now. We were past talking in 2003 when I submitted my opposition to select committee overseeing the formative legislation. More government isn't the answer.

Growing up in New Zealand

According to the NZ Herald, the restructured Families Commission is to take responsibility for the Growing Up in NZ study which has a sample of just under 7,000 babies born in Counties Manukau and Waikato in a period between 2009-2010.

Coincidentally I was looking at that study just yesterday. Regarding 'family resources',  at nine months of age it found 18 percent of babies had parents who received income from a main benefit in their first year. This number is too low, especially in those regions. The reason for the undercount is probably considerable drop-out from the study - 7 percent by nine months. And quite probably the very people we need to take more notice of, those families that are least able to provide good care for their children, are the ones most likely to drop out. So as long-term studies go it is already carrying a frustrating deficiency.

Nevertheless the first report is chocker full of interesting information about the babies and their parents. Things that stand out for me include the high reported use of marijuana, especially by partners; one in ten mothers smoked tobacco through pregnancy; reported relationship status doesn't match  DPB use when the baby is young - that is a fair number of people receiving the DPB actually have a partner. 457 mothers had no partner when the baby was 9 months yet 723 received income from the DPB.  And 8-9 percent slept in their parent's bed.

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Awaiting moderation" on Frogblog

Green MP Holly Walker wants to end child poverty in two terms by arriving at a parliamentary accord about the matter. As my subject today was the number of babies born last year relying on welfare by year-end contributing substantially to the child poverty problem, this afternoon I posted the following comment. It has been "awaiting moderation" ever since (now 9:10pm). I don't know why both Frogblog and Red Alert do this to my comments. I am never rude or abusive.
I released statistics today that show that 22 percent of babies born last year were dependent on a benefit by year-end. This isn’t an aberrant stat. Through good times and bad between one in four and one in five children is added to a new or existing benefit at or shortly after their birth. You won’t solve ‘child poverty’ without reducing this pattern of behaviour.

(BTW, who is Photonz1 who consistently puts up arguments against Green positions? Be nice to know.)

Smokers save the taxpayer money

So the latest taxes are no more than imposing state ideals and revenue gathering....

Radio NZ reports on Treasury officially acknowledging the truth.

A report by the Treasury has admitted smoking actually saves the Government money in the long run.
The fiscal benefits of smoking have long been suspected but rarely acknowledged and a report by Treasury now puts this on the record.
In its report, Treasury says smokers often die earlier than non-smokers and save the state in superannuation costs.
Treasury says smokers pay $1.3 billion a year in excise which may already exceed the direct health costs they impose.
The report then goes on to consider broader economic questions. It says smokers' shorter life expectancy reduces superannuation and aged care costs, meaning they are already "paying their way in narrowly fiscal terms"
The report was prepared for last week's Budget decision to raise the tax on cigarettes to discourage smoking.
Research by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has suggested that people should be able to pay increased prices into a special fund and get the money back later if they can prove they have quit.
The economic consultancy says that would be more effective than giving the money to the Government in higher taxes.

22 percent of babies born 2011 on welfare by year-end

Media Release


Monday, 28 May, 2012

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell said that data released to her under the official Information Act  show that 22.2 percent of babies born in 2011  were dependent on a caregiver receiving a benefit by the end of the same year.

"Over one in five babies reliant on welfare by year-end is a sobering statistic. Almost half of the caregivers were Maori and half were aged 24 or younger."

"There is an established pattern of childbearing followed by reasonably rapid, if not immediate, recourse to welfare in New Zealand.  This occurs during good and bad economic periods."

"The implications for this high percentage lie in the likelihood of these children remaining on a benefit for many years. Ministry of Social Development research found, 'The older the child when they first have contact with the benefit system, the greater their likelihood of leaving benefit. Compared to those in contact at birth, those who first have contact between birth and six months have a 15% increase in the probability of leaving benefit. Between six months and one year there is a 33% increase, between one and two years there is a 41% increase, and first contact between two and three years is associated with a 56% increase in the probability of leaving benefit.' "

"These are the circumstances which are overwhelmingly contributing to New Zealand's child poverty problem."

Truth column Friday May 25

 Last Friday's Truth column:

The alcohol reform debate is boring. New Zealand has been agonising over alcohol since Adam was a boy. Parliament has tried to control its sale and consumption  since the 1800s. Then, lobby groups like the Salvation Army pushed abstinence; today, an alcohol tax hike. Dealing with lives ravaged by alcohol they forget most drinkers do not have a problem. To the contrary. People are now able to enjoy New Zealand-made boutique beers of international quality, visits to vineyards, wine and food festivals and economic benefits - like jobs - that vintners and brewers provide.

Yet all we hear is bad news about 'booze'. Particularly young drinkers. Which is somewhat forgetful of those doing much of the moaning - the middle-aged. Look back to their heyday to find a far worse culture of drink-driving for instance. In 1990, 139 15-24 year-olds affected by alcohol/drugs were involved in fatal crashes. Twenty years later the number had fallen to 54. After-match drinking was chronic and flat 'parties' were frequent. Drunken youth weren't as obvious because the 'Courtenay Places' didn't buzz all night. But young people using and abusing alcohol is no new thing.

Ironically, it is much harder for teenagers to purchase alcohol now than it was in the seventies and eighties yet  lobbyists and legislators still aren't satisfied. Some want the purchase-age put back to twenty, sales from convenience stores banned, trading hours cut and excise lifted.

As parents we want our kids to learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately human nature is such that they need to learn from their own. We hope and pray they survive those mistakes - the vast majority do. And they grow up in the process. But as a country, are we growing up?

Next month parliament will probably raise the purchase-age and impose further restrictions. Yet another exercise in punishing the responsible for the behaviour of the irresponsible. Par for the course in New Zealand I'm afraid.