Children and numbers

One of this mornings news items is on government plans to limit benefit to a family to the average wage, apparently regardless of the size of the family. This seems to be built around the idea that there are families out there with vast numbers of children who are milking the system to the cost of the rest of us. We can check this idea with numbers. The graph below shows the number of claimants broken down by number of children in the household, the final category is for families containing 8 or more children.
The heights of the columns are a lower bound on the fraction of benefit going to each group, an upper bound would be to multiply each column by the number of children but this would be an over-estimate since benefits don’t increase linearly with number of children. There are a little under 1000 families with 8 children or more. 90% of claimant families have less than four children.
These data tell us nothing about the circumstances of each of the families represented which will include the loss of parents, illness, job loss and all the other small disasters which can befall a family.
The data shown here are from Department of Work and Pensions via The Spectator (here).


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    • Bev Gibbs on October 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Thats interesting, I wouldnt have expected one-child families to be the most frequent. Is that significantly different to the distribution of family size in the general population I wonder?
    In terms of this weeks news though, it does suggest the capping policy has more value in headlines than monetary terms.

    • SomeBeans on October 7, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Interesting question regarding the distribution of family size. There are quite a lot of lone parent families there which I imagine brings down the average. The data should be in the ONS Census 2001 data but I haven't found it yet!

    As for the value of the capping policy, yes – it's more to do with headlines than money.

    • chris on October 8, 2010 at 6:27 am

    Isnt even this overrepresenting the numbers, seeing as there will be a class of families with no children?

    • SomeBeans on October 8, 2010 at 7:08 am

    @chris depends on what you're talking about, the political issue was mainly around benefits to families with children.

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