Azara Blog: Innumerate children allegedly cost the taxpayer 2.4 billion pounds per year

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Date published: 2009/01/05

The BBC says:

Children who are bad at maths at school end up costing the taxpayer up to £2.4bn a year, a report suggests.

Accountants KPMG tracked children with poor numeracy and found they were more likely to be unemployed, claim more benefits and pay less tax.

Now the Every Child a Chance Trust wants businesses to help raise £6m for projects at primary schools.

John Griffith-Jones, chairman of the trust, said he was "deeply concerned about the high costs of innumeracy".

Every Child a Chance Trust wants local businesses to make annual contributions of £12,000 each, for three years, to schools in their area.
The report by KPMG estimates that the long-term costs of children leaving schools unable to do maths could be as high as £44,000 per individual up to the age of 37.

Another silly report, commissioned by yet another organisation that has a self-interest in the result being just what the result happened to be. One problem with this report is that it confuses correlation and causation. And here, for example, they have (surprise) found a correlation between innumeracy and unemployment (etc.). But there is also (surprise) a correlation between illiteracy and unemployment (etc.). And between lots of other things and unemployment (etc.).

And sure, being numerate is bound to make life easier for you. Being literate is also bound to make life easier for you. As is being smart. And attractive. And from a wealthy family. To allocate any "cost" to the taxpayer of any aspect of unemployment in particular is just plain bogus.

And the way KPMG would have it, if the government would only spend 44000 pounds per innumerate child and (by some miracle) make them numerate (but not necessarily literate, etc.), then this cost would pay for itself in the long run. Does anyone believe this? 44000 pounds is near enough a full-time math tutor for one year dedicated to the one child. It is not a trivial expense.

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