Azara Blog: The latest UK Social Trends report is released

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Date published: 2007/04/11

The BBC says:

Britons are increasingly likely to live in single-parent families, stay at home for longer, marry later and struggle to afford a house, official figures show.

The Office for National Statistics said children in the UK were three times more likely to live in one-parent households than they were in 1972.

Last year almost 60% of men and 40% of women aged between 20 and 24 in England still lived with their parents.

The department's annual Social Trends report studies patterns in UK society.

Among the findings this year was that wages rose on average by 92% from 1995 to 2005, but house prices rocketed by 204%.
Since 1971 the proportion of all people living in "traditional" family households of married couples with dependent children has fallen from 52% to 37%.

Over the same period, the proportion of people living in couples with no children rose from 19% to 25%.

Nearly a quarter of children lived with only one parent last year and nine out of 10 of those households were headed by lone mothers.
David Green, director of the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If you take almost any measure - how well children do in school, whether they turn to crime, whether they commit suicide, etc - it's better to have two parents.

"It's also the biggest disadvantage of lone parenthood that you're much more likely to be poor."

Of course if you compare almost anything about life today with life in 1971 you are going to find big differences. It is more interesting to look at the trend over (say) the last ten years. Needless to say this would not be so remarkable, which is why the spin is about 1971 (the ONS needs to justify its existence so needs to make a splash).

That 25% of people are couples with no children shows that such people are an important minority. (And they are the only people who are environmentally friendly, since having children is the single most environmentally damaging thing you can do.) But they are only a minority, which is why every year, the government (no matter which political party is in charge) insists that this minority must hand over more and more money to the majority, i.e. people with children. There is always the excuse that this is a "family" friendly policy, as if people without children do not belong to families. Or there is the excuse that "children are the future", as if the workers (who are presumably "the present") and pensioners (who are presumably "the past") should count for nothing.

And David Green makes the classic mistake of confusing correlation and causation. He could equally well have said "It's also the biggest disadvantage of being poor that you're much more likely to be a lone parent". But of course he wants to market the spin that single parents cause poverty (not that there's just a correlation) and that poverty is all that counts when it comes to raising children (so who cares if both parents are constantly rowing with each other, as long as a large amount of money is coming into the household).

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