Measuring poverty 2020


This latest report from UK think tank Legatum Institute looks at the rate of poverty in the UK before and after coronavirus.

The Social Metrics Commission was founded in 2016 to develop a new approach to poverty measurement. The Commission’s ambition is to develop metrics that better reflect the nature and experiences of poverty that different families in the UK face, and which can be used to build a consensus around poverty measurement and action in the UK. The latest report is published amidst the most significant health, social, and economic crisis of modern times. But the need for robust and agreed poverty measures is arguably greater than ever, so that the Government can develop a clear anti-poverty strategy and others can hold it to account.

The report shows that, although the poverty rate in the UK has remained largely unchanged over the last 20 years, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of people living in deep poverty – that is, more than 50% below the poverty line. The report also warns that it is those in deep poverty who are being most significantly impacted by the coronavirus. Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, there were 4.5 million people (7% of the UK population) living in deep poverty, up from 2.8 million (5% of the population) two decades ago. This is in contrast to the overall rate of poverty, which has changed relatively little over the same period. YouGov survey data included in the report reveals that two in three (65%) of those employed and in deep poverty prior to the crisis have seen reduced hours or earnings, been furloughed, and/or lost their job. This compares to one in three (35%) of those employed and living in families more than 20% above the poverty line prior to the crisis. The report also shows that families in poverty where the adults work full time are less likely to experience deep poverty. Nearly one in five (19%) of those in poverty in full-time work families are in deep poverty, compared to over four in ten (43%) of those in poverty in part-time work families and half (50%) of those in poverty in workless families.

The report reveals that, before the coronavirus struck: The overall rate of poverty in the UK was 22%. There were 14.4 million people living in poverty. This included 4.5 million children; 8.5 million working-age adults; and 1.3 million pension-age adults. Half (50%) of all people in poverty lived in a family that included a disabled person. There were 4 million people in poverty who were themselves disabled and another 3.2 million lived in a family that included someone else who is disabled. Poverty rates were highest amongst families with children. The poverty rate for people living in couple families without children was 11% (1.4 million people), compared to 26% (5.9 million people) for people in couple families with children and 48% (2.4 million people) for those in lone-parent families. Poverty rates were higher for Black and Minority Ethnic families. Nearly half (46%, 900,000 people) of all people living in families where the household head is Black/African/Caribbean/Black British were in poverty, compared to just under one in five (19%, 10.7 million people) of those living in families where the head of household is White. Poverty rates varied slightly across the UK’s four nations. The highest poverty rate was 23% in Wales, compared to 22% in England, 21% in Northern Ireland, and 19% in Scotland. Poverty rates varied significantly between English regions. Poverty rates were highest in London (29%) and the North East (26%), and lowest in the South West, South East, and East of England (all 18%).

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