Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Yes. Now, first of all, that actually doesn't matter for the sake of argument. Because Jake claims all poverty is RELATIVE. And the means that even if there were slums in France, as long as I don't see them, they don't count!

For someone who waxes indignant about straw men and glass houses you seem to pay dreadfully little attention to what I actually wrote. Or perhaps I made my point insufficiently clear? I shall attempt to elaborate.

Over the space of one, or even two decades, in a reasonably industrialised nation, the economy does not grow perceptibly. Even if we take the growth numbers reported at face value, and ignore the fact that part of the growth in most Western countries stems from funny-money being moved around between different accounts, a decade of growth - say, the five-year periods immediately before and after a policy is adopted - would grow the economy by less than forty percent. This makes median income relevant, because significant changes in the income distribution quickly become a zero-sum game.

Thus, if you wish to measure how a policy affects poverty, some fraction of the median income offers a quite reasonable proxy. In the sense of evaluating concrete policies - which was the original topic of this discussion - that makes median income a perfectly relevant tool.

Your example of North Korea having low relative poverty, while correct, is a red herring as long as the policy proposals under debate will have an effect on the overall economy that are several orders of magnitude less than the difference between the economic output of the country discussed and North Korea, which is virtually always the case.

Furthermore, even though I defended - and will continue to defend - median income as a valuable proxy for short-term calculations, you completely sidestepped the fact that I proposed an semi-absolute (absolute in space, but relative in time) measure of poverty: Shelter, heat, food water, education, access to information, access to standard of care-level medical care, access to medicine ('access' in this context means reliable access). I would ask you to evaluate this poverty metric.

I would further ask you to cease putting words in my mouth that I did not, in fact, type. I specifically stated that I agree with you about the lack of usefulness of fraction of median income as a proxy for poverty in some cases, due to its somewhat ad hoc nature.

I also believe that you overlook an important fact in your discussion of the arbitraryness of boundries used in the calculation of relative poverty: The natural boundary to use is the area of jurisdiction in which the policy is being contemplated, since the value of fraction-of-median-income seems to me to be in short-term-evaluation of policies.

Furthermore, I will happily acknowledge both that fraction-of-median income is meaningless outside the evaluation of reasonably industrialized economies (a criterion that neither North Korea nor Beverley Hills fulfills) and that it is not directly comparable to most other metrics of poverty.

This is not a problem, however: All that is relevant in evaluating policies is whether it goes up or down, so all that is required for it to work as a proxy is that there is a monotonous relationship between the fraction of median income and whatever poverty measure you find meaningful. That's the bitch of using proxies: They are usually not directly comparable, and a good proxy in one measurement regime may be a bad one in another.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 05:34:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Others have rated this comment as follows:


Top Diaries

Occasional Series