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The Poorest Fifth

John Rentoul

quintile The Poorest FifthIt’s not often ministers use the word “quintile”, and probably even rarer that they use the phrase “quintile group” correctly. Pedantry medal, therefore, awarded to Matthew Hancock, the Business minister and former adviser to George Osborne. In his interview with Jane Merrick and me for today’s Independent on Sunday, he said: “The figures show that since 2010, the only quintile group on average who have seen their incomes rise is the bottom 20 per cent.”

Quintiles, since you ask, are the points which split a ranked population into five equal parts (as the median splits it into two equal parts). A quintile group is any of those five parts, usually counted from the bottom for no good reason. Thus the graph, taken from the Office for National Statistics’ The Effects of Taxes and Benefits on Household Income, 2011/12, shows the growth of household disposable income for the bottom, second, third, fourth and top quintile groups.

The data for this graph is here (clicking will download Excel file; thanks to Richard Tonkin at the ONS), and shows that the income of the poorest fifth of the population has fallen slightly since 2009/10, by 0.4 per cent, but it has fallen by less than that of all the better-off groups. (The average fall for all households is 5 per cent, and for the richest fifth 6.6 per cent.)

Thus, as I say in my column in The Independent on Sunday, most people think that the gap between rich and poor is getting wider when the opposite is happening (slightly). It is a relief to find a Government minister who knows this, and who understands the data. It is only surprising that the Liberal Democrats do not appear to know it, and that the Government generally doesn’t make more of it.

More of Hancock’s interview is here.

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  • Hill244

    Euan Blair not in that fifth eh? He should have joined The Met and been a bent cop like Det Con Halsam;)

  • Pacificweather

    Well John, the figures also show that the same happened between 1989 and 1996 which would make one think that the poor are better off under the Conseratives than Labour. Unless, that is, you ignore the figures from 1983-89 when the gap favoured the rich. Perhaps it was just Ken Clarke who was good for the poor. From 2004-2008 only the poorest had a reducing income. So much for Blairite social justice. The old phrase, ‘Labour isn’t working’ seems to ring true. Have you got the figures for your old mate Clement Attlee?

  • adiousir

    The graph shows the rate of GROWTH. The gap is still increasing, just less fast than before 2010.

  • Tanstaafl

    The author must be aware that statistics and graphs are open to interpretation and only as accurate as the data used to create them. I think that many people, some with impressive credentials, would disagree with his assessment. I’m not a published economist, nor do I lecture at a prestigious university, but what I’ve seen and lived through over these past four decades tells me that what is offered up here is a crock; a deliberate falsehood presented with pseudo-scientific trappings. The gap between rich and poor is not only getting wider — it has become a chasm. The working class, the poorest quintile, of which I must count myself a member, has had increasingly less buying power, less access to capital and less chance of owning a home or starting a small business ever since the mid-1970’s. Good luck bootstrapping yourself into the next higher socioeconomic class when you can barely afford rent. Forget about any sort of comfortable retirement — if you’re lucky, you’ll die in harness — if not in the streets. Who is this author beholden to? Who holds his leash? Questions I doubt we’ll ever see answered.

    Dismiss me as a “Liberal Democrat”, but I know what you are Mr. Rentoul:
    a bought-and-paid-for hack, a rented tool; used by those in power to spread lies and disinformation.

  • Pingback: Rising Disposable Income: Fact Check | John Rentoul | Independent Eagle Eye Blogs


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