A report on Maori and Pacific Island child poverty says the widely accepted method of measuring the gap between rich and poor should be dropped, as it's only making matters worse.
Research for a coalition of advocacy groups called Every Child Counts shows that just over half of the 200,000 children living below the poverty line are Maori and Pacific Islanders.
Every Child Counts says a brown social underclass is developing.
A spokesperson, Anton Blank, says the way officials measure Maori and Pacific Island well-being by comparing them to other groups is making things worse, as the figures become self-fulfilling prophecies.
He says different cultures and values should be taken taken into account when making policy.
Every Child Counts says two in every five children will be Maori or Pasifika within the next two decades, so urgent action is needed.