The Poorest Fifth
It’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.Tagged in: equality, inequality
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