Big words,thin ice. IDS on worklessness and social housing.

More detail than anyone is likely to want on why Iain Duncan Smith's claims to be 'breaking up 'shameless' housing estates' are about as well-founded as you might expect. In the spirit of scrupulous fairness I've looked at two possible data sources- see the update to the article for the second. On balance I now think Mr Duncan Smith is probably guilty of confirmation bias rather than of deliberately selecting the stats to make his case, so please read the update as well as the article.

Those households again

A lot of people seem to have liked the cone chart on intergenerationally workless households with children I published earlier , but I've noticed a problem with it. The volumes in the chart aren't proportional to the variable being displayed, which is the number/percentage of households falling into the various categories. For example, about half of households with kids have all adults in employment. This is the category at the bottom of the chart.

Visualising intergenerational workless households with dependent children

Left-click to enlarge image.

“Our recent *Housing Poverty* report concluded that Britain’s social housing estates, once stepping stones of opportunity, are now ghettos for our poorest people. Life expectancy on some estates, where often three generations of the same family have never worked, is lower than the Gaza Strip” – Iain Duncan Smith MP (2009)

The invention of worklessness


‘Is this even a word?’ asked the copy-editor for a report I was working on in 2002. She had a point. The word was ‘worklessness’, and despite years of experience in editing, she’d never seen it before. Up to a few years earlier I had probably never used the word myself, but at this stage I was so immersed in the world of labour market and poverty analysis that its oddness had ceased to register.