Securing the reproductive rights of learning disabled women

In this guest post, Godfred Boahen looks at an area of inequalities that we haven’t previously touched upon on the blog – reproductive rights, specifically in the case of disabled people. 

Royal Courts of JusticeIn February 2013 the Court of Protection (COP) in England ruled on whether a woman called K should be forcefully sterilised. K was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome and the case at COP was instigated by her mother who feared that K would become pregnant without contraception. At the time of the hearing K was not involved in sexual relations. The Judge Mr Justice Cobb decided that forced sterilisation would not be in K’s best interest, thereby highlighting how formal rights can effectively protect people with learning disability. 

In this post I want to introduce the legislation on which Mr Cobb based his decision, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA), and reflect on its implications for the reproductive rights of women with learning disability. Continue reading

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Did Labour’s social policies fail or succeed 1997-2010?

It’s impossible to begin telling a story without knowing the ending. So after 13 years in office (1997-2010), it is only now possible to write the story of New Labour’s social policy record – what they aimed to do, what they spent, and what it achieved – and this is just what a team of my colleagues at CASE in LSE have done, led by Ruth Lupton (now at Manchester) and John Hills. I recommend everyone to check out their fantastic summary infographic (see also blogs from the CASE team at LSE Politics & Policy and Polly Toynbee), but over a couple of posts I wanted to pick out the stories that struck me within this gold mine of information. Continue reading

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Income Mobility and Geography: Important New Research

Some new research by Raj Chetty, Emmanuel Saez, Nathaniel Hendren, and Patrick Kline finds that the likelihood of poor children moving up the income ladder in early adulthood varies dramatically by metro area in the United States. In places like Salt Lake City, Utah or Bakersfield, California, a child born in the bottom quintile has a roughly 12 percent chance of moving up to the top quintile by adulthood. In places like Memphis, Tennessee or Atlanta, Georgia, the chance is 4 percent or less.

By now, you may have seen some of the extensive media coverage of this research – which coincided with a major recent speech by President Obama on economic inequality. What you may not realize is how unique the data used for this study are. Continue reading

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Back of the envelope policy-making

Back of the envelope

This post was originally going to be about the pros and cons of two recent UK government policy announcements. The first proposes to force people to wait a week after losing their jobs before claiming JSA (Jobseeker’s Allowance), and the second to get new immigrants to pay a £1000 levy on entering the country, in order to defray the cost of their potential use of the NHS.

There’s plenty to say about this – very little of it complementary. For example, much could be made of George Osborne’s laughably weak argument for the JSA delay. “Those first seven days should be spent looking for a job and not looking to sign on”, he says confidently, as if the two activities were completely mutually exclusive. If only there were some sort of place where unemployed people could receive financial support, and get help looking for jobs at the same time. Some kind of ‘Job Centre’ perhaps?

Continue reading

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Could ‘pre-distribution’ boost the wage share?

In a guest post, Stewart Lansley captures the key findings from his latest TUC pamphlet (with Howard Reed) on how to reverse the increasing share of national income going to profits rather than pay packets.

cartoon - chess There has been much discussion in the UK of the merits of tackling inequality by prioritizing ‘pre-distribution` – of attempting to achieve a more equal distribution of the cake before turning to ‘redistribution’ through the tax and benefit system. Central to the securing greater equality is what can be done about Britain’s low wage economy. Real wages have been on a downward slide since 2009, a fall which comes after a thirty year long squeeze on wages in favour of profits. The share going to wages is now 5.5 percentage points lower than it was in the late 1970s ( a fall from 59.2 per cent to 53.7 per cent ). This ‘wage gap’ is equivalent to around £85bn in today’s prices. As most of the jobs now being created are low paid, this gap is likely to grow.

So what practical measures could reverse this process, returning the wage share closer to the level of the 1950s and 1960s? Continue reading

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U.S. Health Disadvantage is Not Inevitable

Two major research studies in the last year compare health indicators in the United States with other major upper-income countries. Both exhaustively review government statistics and published articles. The first study, from the Institute of Medicine, draws on a panel of luminary demographers and epidemiologists to explore the causes of U.S. health disadvantage (editors Laudan Aron and Steven Woolf). The second study, from the Global Burden of Disease Group (led by Christopher Murray), applies complex modeling to assess the relative consequences of different diseases and their sequelae on premature death and disability. Continue reading

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Killer evidence for intergenerational welfare dependency?

A joint post by Lindsey Macmillan and Ben Baumberg looks at an important – but easily misinterpreted – new paper on ‘Family Welfare Cultures’.

Iain Duncan SmithWith the topic of intergenerational worklessness high on the political agenda, a clever recent Norwegian paper on the role of family welfare cultures in intergenerational welfare dependency has been attracting some interest.  If you listen to the government rhetoric on the topic, the ‘curse of intergenerational worklessness’ is bred directly through families passing on welfare seeking behaviour from one generation to the next. This conjures up images of the (effectively non-existent) ‘never working family’ with the parent taking the child to the job centre on their 18th birthday to show them how to sign on. On the face of it, this recent paper fits into this rhetoric – but the actual message of the paper is more complex than it looks. Continue reading

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Benefits: Fact and Fiction

JSA vs. Pensions

As part of the International Year of Statistics (by the way, it’s also the International Year of Water Cooperation, and the International Year of Quinoa, so good quinoa recipes in the comments please), Ipsos Mori recently conducted a survey looking at people’s factual beliefs about the UK. I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to hear that (among other things) the British people heroically overestimate:

  • The amount we spend on Jobseeker’s allowance (29% of the sample believed we spend more on JSA than pensions; whereas the opposite is true – to the tune of about 1500%).
  • The scale of welfare benefit fraud (estimated by the sample at £24 out of every £100; actually more like 70p)

  • How much we would save by capping benefits at £26,000 (twice the number of people in the sample thought we would save more by doing this than by stopping child benefit for high earners or raising the retirement age to 66. The real savings are estimated to be £260 million, £1700 million, and £5000 million, respectively).

Continue reading

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Brazilian protests: inequality and its consequences

In this guest post, Kênia Parsons of LSE/University of New South Wales explores the continuing, inequality-fuelled protests in her home country of Brazil.

“It’s not only about cents, it’s about billions in inequality”

“It’s not only about cents, it’s about billions in inequality”

A wave of protests has invaded the Brazilian streets. An increase in bus fares was the spark needed to ignite the street protests.  Brazilians are protesting about public transport, health services, education, the blow out costs of the World Cup, the high price of living, violence, corruption and the list goes on and on. These protests are not only about the lack of basic infrastructure but also about the quality of the existing infrastructure. A proposal to amend the Constitution (PEC 37) – popularly called the “impunity amendment”- seizing the Public Prosecution’s power of criminal investigation, has contributed to fuelling this sentiment of anger and dissatisfaction against public authorities (1).  In this post, I consider the nature of the protests and how far they show us the harmful effects of inequality in the Brazilian society. Continue reading

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The Asian American Paradox: “Model Minorities” and Outsiders

Asian Americans are among the fastest growing demographics in the United States, yet they receive little attention in the study of racial inequality. This is especially surprising because Asian Americans occupy a paradoxical position in American society — simultaneously successful and marginal.

On average, Asian American educational attainment, income, and wealth is equal to, or surpasses, whites, yet Asians remain on the social periphery in many respects. For example, Asian American stereotypes are pervasive in the media, and social advancement for Asian Americans has stalled in some areas of social life. Asian Americans earn less and are less likely to occupy managerial positions than whites with similar educational backgrounds.

How are Asian Americans perceived by other racial groups, and what can that tell us about their social standing? Continue reading

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