Model aims to capture dimensions of poverty

A 'pioneering' new model has been launched to capture the different ways poverty hits a range of household types. The Demos think tank stresses that poverty is not just about income, but is a 'complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon' manifesting itself in a variety of ways.

Key points

  • The way poverty is currently measured, based purely on income, is both too abstract to relate to people's everyday lives and not informative enough to help practitioners tackle entrenched poverty.
  • The model instead takes 20 separate 'indicators' of poverty, and applies them to people with incomes below 70 per cent of the median in a large household panel study (Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study). The results show which combinations of indicators cluster most frequently together.
  • The indicators cover income and material deprivation, but also factors such as employment, neighbourhood deprivation, health and housing conditions.
  • Combinations of these indicators create 15 different 'types' of poverty across three cohorts – households with and without children, and pensioner households.
  • The largest proportion of low-income households with children consists of 'grafters'. This group is made up of the recently redundant, self-employed people experiencing a drop in income, and those with a long work history in poorly paid jobs (the 'working poor'). They tend to be home-owners, have high levels of qualifications, are not short of material goods, and report that they are coping financially. They are, the authors say, a 'far cry' from the stereotype of people in poverty tackling multiple social problems, and are instead implementing stringent budgeting tactics in order to get by.

The authors say they are not seeking to redefine poverty, or measure it in a new way that replaces the existing income benchmark. Instead, they are applying a new model of analysis to the low-income population (using an existing income-based poverty line) to better understand the lived experience of poverty and generate new insights into how to tackle it.

Source: Claudia Wood, Jo Salter, Gareth Morrell, Matt Barnes, Ally Paget and Duncan O'Leary, Poverty in Perspective, Demos
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