The government announced this week that they plan to withdraw child benefit for couples where either parent earns above £44,000. Some have seen this as an attack on women, as child benefit is one of the few benefits to be paid to the mother. But the devil in the detail may reveal just the opposite.
Why? Because the benefit will not actually be withdrawn, but clawed back through the tax system. And as there is a gender gap between male and female earnings, and women are more likely to work part time, the money will most likely be paid by fathers.
To illustrate how this might pan out, I’ve quickly visualised some pay statistics from 2008 which show how annual earnings are distributed between men and women (screengrab below). Men hit the £44,000 point around the 85th percentile – but women don’t hit it until after the 90th. In fact, even when you look at women working full time only, earnings at the 90th percentile are around £40,000, and there is no data on what percentage of women are earning over £44,000 (although I’m going to keep looking for this).
What does this mean? Well, some family discord at least, given that money is one of the subjects couples most argue about (statistical support needed!). You might also argue that it is – if ever so slightly – addressing the gender gap in pay, if clumsily to say the least.
How I got here: The data is available in full at this spreadsheet, which was obtained through this PDF on the national statistics website, which I found in turn from in the references on this study into gender equality, that I found from this search. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes.