What excellent news about British social mobility


This isn't the way that anyone intends we should read this ONS report of course but it is also a true and valid way of reading it.

Almost a third of the UK population experienced income poverty in at least one year between 2010 and 2013, official data shows.

The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday, show that approximately 19.3 million people had a disposable income of below 60% of the national median at some point during the four-year period.

Word. And the actual ONS figures:

In 2013, the UK persistent poverty rate was less than half the overall poverty rate of 15.9%. By comparison, in many other EU countries, the persistently poor make up a higher proportion of those in poverty.

Since 2008 (the first year for which comparable EU longitudinal data are available), the UK has consistently had a persistent poverty rate lower than the EU average.

Almost a third (33%) of the UK population experienced poverty in at least one year between 2010 and 2013, equivalent to approximately 19.3 million people. In contrast, across the EU as a whole, a quarter (25%) of people were in poverty at least once during that period, with a larger proportion of people in the UK experiencing poverty at least once over those 4 years than in many other EU countries.

Worth noting one point: this is relative poverty. So, it's against median income. Further, it's against median income in each country. So we are not, not at all, stating that people in Britain have a lower living standard than those in, say, Romania.

Note first that that persistent poverty is half the average rate. That's pretty good, don't we think? And note also something else. Britain has greater variability in poverty. Variability in income is also known as economic mobility (or as the phrase has become these days, social mobility). For us to have more people who slip into poverty for a time, but not have more people in poverty overall, means also that more Britons must rise up out of poverty. That is, we really do have greater social mobility.

We doubt very much that anyone else will make this point.