Important updates at the foot of this article.

Last week the PM declared there were “120,000 troubled families” who were responsible for all manner of woes. He said “we know who these families are” and calculated that these people were costing the country £70,000 each per year.

The trouble is, no one (except the BBC’s More or Less programme) looked at the figures to see how they were achieved. It turns out they come from a study of a subset of people, and those 120,000 is a rounding up of a 117,000 figure that the study came up with, saying that families had 5 or more of particular ‘disadvantagments’, making them ‘multiply disadvantaged’.

The government then, as their statement said, used this figure because it was the closest to what they wanted to measure. There was a slipage from ‘troubled’ to ‘trouble makers’, however there is no evidence that ‘troubled families’ are trouble making families. But it makes a grreat headline for the paper of the ‘people’ to follow.

It is the first item at the beginning of Radio 4s More or Less on Friday 18th May 2012, download link here.

More or Less Podcasts: 

UPDATE: Troubled Families Research Discredited. (5/11/2012)

The study that is referred to in this post has since been completely discredited. It turns out that the 117,000 figure was itself an extrapolation. We now know that Casey interviewed just 16 families. The New Statesman carries this story.

FURTHER UPDATE: Author admits number simply made up. (8/04/2013)

I have been following the saga of the “120,000 troubled families” since it was first mentioned in speech by PM David Cameron last May. I first reported here in some detail that  this number and the rational behind it was at best dubious. And finally after some pressure form others in the field,  Louise Casey, the author of the original report in to this, finally admitted that the “120,000 troubled families” number was simply made up.

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