PSE research

In this section you will find full details of the Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom research project (PSE UK, 2012).  This research revealed high levels of deprivation across the UK with severe impacts on people's lives. 

Detailed findings from the PSE research were presented at the PSE UK final Conference held in June 2014 and at the PSE Scotland Conference in August 2014.  'Breadline Britain- the rise of mass poverty', by Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack, provides an overview of the main findings (One World, 2015, £9.99).


Featured PSE Research

Bus services

This latest PSE report assesses the state of local public and private services and trends since 1999. It finds that while most universal services have high usage, leisure and cultural services have seen falls in usage risking a spiral of decline.

Analysis of the PSE-UK survey results finds significant poverty in every kind of location in Scotland with poverty highest in large urban areas and lowest in remote towns though there is strong evidence that access to services is worse in more rural or remote locations.

Young boys on flats walkway pointing

Are subjective measures of well being effective at identifying risk of material deprivation? What are they measuring? How should we take account of children's views when examining measures of child poverty? Read Grace Kelly and Gill Main's Phd theses drawing on the PSE research.

Exploring this section

Dissemination provides details of the published outputs of the research including the extensive media coverage of the project and journal papers, booksother publications and presentations drawing on the research. 

Under Key Findings, there are short online summaries on people's attitudes to, and their lack of, necessities and in Explore the Data there is an opportunity to interact with key data on necessities. 

Under Reports you can find the final PSE UK reports, and PSE papers providing a Results Analysis of people's attitudes to necessities and services and Policy Responses to government consultations by the PSE team. In Working Papers there are details of the methodology, concepts and statistical analysis underlying the research.

The PSE UK 2012 project follows on from earlier research projects in Britain in 1999, 1990 and 1983 and in Northern Ireland in 2002/3 all of which measure poverty in terms of relative deprivation, in particular those who cannot afford items and activities regarded as necessities by a majority of people. Past Research provides details of these earlier research projects while questionnaires provides access to the top levels results for all these surveys and the 2012 surveys. The Northern Ireland section provides summaries of both the research into poverty and additional research into the legacies of the 'Troubles'. 
Many countries across the world, and in particular the European Union, have taken up and developed the idea of publicly-perceived necessities. Brief details can be found under International.
Other aspects of the PSE UK 2012 research project can be found in the sections on: Living in poverty, see Life Stories which presents videos based on the PSE qualitative work; Communities where you'll find details of an innovative participatory project in Northern Ireland; and Take Part where under Events you will find details of the PSE conferences and will be able to take the PSE attitudes to necessities survey online. 

About the PSE UK research project

The PSE:UK research project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and is a major collaboration between the University of Bristol (lead), Heriot-Watt University, The Open University, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Glasgow and the University of York. Launched in May 2010, two major surveys into the public’s perceptions of necessities and into living standards were carried out in 2012/13:

  • An attitudinal survey into the public’s perceptions of necessities and attitudes to services.

  • A large-scale survey of living standards to examine the nature, extent and causes of deprivation and social exclusion.

In addition, two qualitative research studies were undertaken:

  • An investigation into the experiences of living on low income during recession in Gloucestershire, the West Midlands and Strathclyde.

  • An exploration of the role of the family when coping with poverty in Northern Ireland.

The research uses relative deprivation to examine poverty and, in particular, the concept of necessities as set out in the consensual method. It develops and improves on the methodolgy of the ‘Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey in Britain in 1999’ (funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) which, in turn, followed the ‘Breadline Britain in the 1990s’ and ‘Breadline Britain 1983’ surveys. This method was also used in the PSE Northern Ireland survey in 2002/3. It is therefore the fourth in a series of nationally representative surveys in Britain and the second in Northern Ireland that use a consensual measure of minimum necessary living standards and direct measures of material and social deprivation rather than solely relying on proxy income data. 

A summary of the aims of this research as set out in the ESRC bid can be found in Poverty and social exclusion in the UK: ten years into the new millennium. The research aims to establish:

  • What are the best methods for measuring poverty, deprivation, social exclusion and standard of living?

  • How are the different dimensions of poverty, deprivation and social exclusion related?

  • What is the current extent and nature of poverty and how has it changed?

  • What policies best address these problems?

Project team

Details of the PSE UK project team, including the UK and International advisory boards, can be found here

Survey details

Necessities of Life survey and the Living standards survey were both carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in Britain and by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) in Northern Ireland.

  • The ‘living standards’ survey was carried out between March and December 2012 and covered 5,193 households (4,205 in Britain and 988 in Northern Ireland) in which 12,097 people were living (9,786 in Britain and 2,311 in Northern Ireland).
  • The ‘Necessities of Life’ survey was carried out between May and June 2012 and is based on a sample of 1,447 adults aged 16 or over in the Britain and 1,015 in Northern Ireland.

Download the questionnaires, with top level results, in the Questionnaires section. Read more about the development of the surveys in the Methods development working papers