Constituencies with higher child poverty look to Labour

Graph of child poverty and how constituencies vote

Labour used to be renowned as the champions of the working class. A narrowing of job diversity and a mixture of increasing disposable income, cheap credit and even cheaper goods from China, has led to a growing, consumerism-based middle class and reduction in Labour’s traditional support base. But there is a new issue at the heart of Labour support – child poverty.

According to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Labour significantly reduced both child and pensioner poverty between 1997 and 2010.

Chart of falling child and pensioner poverty
Poverty levels for different groups in the UK from 1997 to 2010. Child and pensioner poverty falls significantly

Despite this massive improvement, child poverty remains a big issue in the UK and interestingly, but not surprisingly, it is a regional, unequal problem across the country.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty periodically releases a map of child poverty that gives the percentage of children in poverty within each parliamentary constituency. Here I’ll be using the data tables easily obtainable from the Guardian website.

At the bright end of the spectrum, Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam has less than 5 % child poverty. At the worst end there is Manchester Central with 47% child poverty.

Chart of child poverty as percentage in each UK constituency
The full range of child poverty across all UK constituencies. Low of less than 5% and high of 47%

Merging this table with the UK general election 2010 results (also available from the Guardian) we can quickly see a pattern – the constituencies with the lowest child poverty are Coalition seats and those with highest child poverty are Labour seats.

Chart showing box and whisker plot of child poverty per constituency grouped by 2010 election results
Child poverty per constituency, grouped by 2010 election results. Showing only the 3 main parties – Conservative (mean: 14.7%), Labour (mean: 25.0%) and Liberal Democrats (mean: 16.2%)

Looking at the figures for the 3 main parties (Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem), a quick ANOVA test shows that child poverty (%) is significantly different between their constituencies (P<2e-16) and subsequent Tukey post-hoc pairwise comparison shows that Labour seats have significantly higher percentage of child poverty than either Coalition member (P~0.00) – interestingly, Lib Dems are not significantly different from Conservatives (P~0.20).

Pairwise comparison of child poverty (%) per constituency, grouped by political party

This Tukey post hoc comparison was completed using the R function TukeyHSD. Significant differences are noted in the column 'Adjusted P', with the symbol **
Party ComparisonLower boundUpper boundPAdjusted P
Lab-Con10.349.1011.580.000**
Lib-Con1.52-0.563.590.200
Lib-Lab-8.82-10.94-6.700.000**

While child poverty is still a massive problem in the UK, Liberal Democrats claim that the Conservatives plan to bring £8 billion more cuts to welfare including child tax credits and child benefits. Labour have also been quick to accuse Cameron of planned cuts to child benefit.

According to that IFS study, child benefits and tax credits were Labour’s primary means of reducing child poverty (although don’t forget the minimum wage too). Coalition cuts have resulted in increased child poverty during this recession and further ideological cuts to these programs would be expected to increase child poverty across the country ( as has been predicted by e.g. Joseph Rowntree Foundation )

Cameron has, of course, denied any cuts to child benefits, but programs like the bedroom tax and the benefits cap as well as other cuts to services have predominantly hit people with children and they will not be likely to trust him at his word.

Coalition supporters do not see as much child poverty in their parts of the country – they may well support a Tory policy to cut child support further, giving him a mandate to do so in a new term.

Labour supporters can see child poverty on their doorstep and it seems likely that they’ll be voting for a party that promises to end it and has a track record of doing so.

 Supporting info:

Combined spreadsheet of poverty and 2010 election results (CSV)

R script for analysis of data and production of plots (.R)

5 thoughts on “Constituencies with higher child poverty look to Labour

  1. Shawn Ingle says:

    Post election we are in the same position as we were just a short month ago,threat of child benefit cuts and savings.
    Expenditure internationally that is not requirement for Britains people as a nation are made to suffer .

    1. RLD says:

      Tax evasion and avoidance costs the UK between 40 and 80 Billion each year. Cracking down on tax cheats is key to Britain having enough cash to pay child benefits without more borrowing. This is only possible with international collaboration.

  2. Dad says:

    mmm, post election some of the highest area did not look to Labour but looked to a Socialist party (SNP) to help fight the cuts

    1. RLD says:

      Yes, Scotland did buck the trend a little in this election. I’ve grabbed the post-2015 election results and have begun to redo the analyses from this blog with that in mind. The general trend holds true – Conservative voters still see less child poverty than Labour voters. Interestingly, UKIP voters (many of whom are concerned by cuts, austerity and low wage jobs etc) are not correlated with child poverty at all. I’m adding migration statistics to the newer analyses to see if UKIP is correlated with inflow of migrants – reportedly this is not the case, but we’ll see.

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