Howard Flight is the latest politician to make a bid for the “most inappropriate remark of the year” award. He’s up against some tough competition but this quote is quite something.
We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that’s not very sensible.
Although I’m loathe to say it, he’s kind of right about one thing. There is apparently a link between benefits and birth rates. What is inexcusable is the suggestion that those incentives should be rigged against the poor.
What is the evidence of a link? We’ve written on this blog before about the 45,000 extra children born as a result of Gordon Brown’s largesse with benefits. This is the cohort of “Brown babies” identified by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
The changes to tax credits and benefits basically lowered the financial risk of having a kid, helping to push the birth rate to its highest level since 1974. The “price” of an extra child fell for many low income families along with the financial penalty of staying at home as a mother. Working class families had more confidence to have children – or at least have them earlier.
That’s the theory at least. It admittedly does sound a bit crude to make such a link. But the IFS research seems reasonably rigorous. None of that, though, excuses Flight’s breeding blunder.