Saturday, May 15, 2021

Asian parents give lie to the NZ narrative

The non-challenged New Zealand narrative is that housing costs are a major driver of child poverty. 

Rents are unaffordable, houses are damp and mouldy, and children go hungry and ill as a consequence.

Consider these newly released graphs from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC):

Asian children live in homes with the highest ratio of housing- to- income costs.

Asian children have the lowest experience of damp, mouldy homes.

Asian children are the least likely to go hungry.

Looks a lot to me like Asians prioritise renting or buying at the limit of their capability; that they seek better properties and better neighbourhoods and take responsibility for any damp or mould; and that even on tight budgets they know how to feed their kids.

Asian parents give lie to the New Zealand narrative.

Defining ethnicity for the purposes of measuring child poverty

The Child Poverty Related Indicators report on housing, food security, school attendance and potentionally avoidable hospital admissions. The problem - or absurdity - is that each indicator uses a different method of defining child ethnicity.

• Housing affordability and housing quality indicators: ethnic groups are reported using the total response method. People were able to identify with more than one ethnic group; therefore, figures will not sum to the total population. People who responded ‘New Zealander’ were classified as ‘other ethnic group’.

• Food security: respondents can identify with multiple ethnicities, including specifying an ethnic group not listed.

• School attendance: students were able to identify with up to three ethnicities. Students are counted under each ethnic group they identify with and once in "Total".

• Potentially avoidable admissions: The ethnicity reported is based on prioritised ethnicity for a patient within the hospital inpatient system. This prioritises people to Māori, then Pacific, and then Other ethnicities. A person identified as having more than one ethnicity will be prioritised accordingly and will only be counted once under each ethnicity category for each PAH event.

Take the first, housing. If a child falls in the housing hardship group, and has two or more ethnicities, he is counted twice or more. So there is a bias towards overstating a housing hardship problem for children of mixed ethnicity. 

Conversely, with hospitalisations, even though each child is counted just once, because Maori ethnicity is prioritised, there is a bias towards overstating the Maori aspect of hospitalisation. 

Just two more reasons why the Child Poverty Related Indicators need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Massaging child poverty indicators


This is a graph with which I am familiar. If anything there is an upward trend in 'all cause' child hospitalisations.

So I was somewhat surprised yesterday to hear the good news from the PM's department Child Poverty Related Indicators Report that 'potentially avoidable hospitalisations' (PAH) are trending down.

"Over the five years to 2019/20, rates of potentially avoidable hospitalisations have been decreasing."


So I went looking for the detail that might explain the seeming contradiction (beyond the fact that from March 2020 Covid meant people didn't go to hospital.) Here's the blurb on PAH:

 Potentially avoidable hospitalisations

The Ministry of Health does not routinely collect data on potentially avoidable hospitalisations. In order to present data for this indicator, the Ministry of Health used the National Minimum Dataset (Hospital Inpatient Events) and developed a specific methodology based on analysis from academic literature and discussions with experts. The methodology report has been published by the Ministry of Health (Ministry of Health. Indicator of potentially avoidable hospitalisations for the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy: A brief report on methodology. Wellington: Ministry of Health. 2020).

A "specific methodology" designed solely for the purposes of creating a new indicator which...

... is required to help the government: 

-better understand the social determinants of child and youth health

-monitor the collective efforts of the health sector and other sectors on improving the health status of this population subgroup.

Forgive my cynicism but could one include in that list 'to help the government look good?'

What we have is actual hospitalisations rising while 'potentially avoidable hospitalisations' are falling.

Doesn't that mean 'potentially unavoidable hospitalisations' are increasing?

Is that good news? Here's the headline:

'More Children Being Unavoidably Hospitalised'

Talk about spin.