The following tables examine, for adults and children, items and activities seen as a necessity by the majority of the population by, in the first column, the percentages of the adult population who see it as a necessity and then, in the next columns, by the percentages who have it, who don't have it but don't want it, and who do not have it because they cannot afford it. For items, the last column shows the percentage who could not allocate the item between the choices of have, don't want and can't afford. For activities, the last column shows the percentage who want to do the activity but cannot do it for some reason other than lack of money.
The items for adults are further broken down into those that were answered in the survey by just one member of the household for the whole household (and refer to percentage of household) and those that were answered by every adult in the household (which refer to percentages of adults). The tables for children refer to the percentage of the group of children to which that item or activity applies (see Children going without for the relevant age group).
For all the tables, the initial order is by the percentage who cannot afford the item/activity, going from highest to lowest. You can re-order the table by any of the other columns by clicking on the up/down arrow at the top of the column and reset it to its initial order by clicking the reset button.
Adult Household items (% of households)
Adult Individual items (% of adults)
Adult Activities ( % of adults)
Children Items (% of children)
Children Activities (% of children)
Source for tables: the percentages seeing an item or activity as a necessity are from the PSE 'Necessities of Life' survey, all other columns are from the PSE UK 2012 'Living standards' survey.
Notes: Percentages are round to the nearest whole number. For the tables for child items, percentages of 0% or 1% are based on small samples sizes; for the adult tables, percentages of 0% (that is under 0.5%) are based on small sample sizes.
When examing those who have and do not have an item or activity seen as a necessity, the PSE surveys, and their predecessor Breadline Britain surveys, distinguish between those who have the item, those who don't have it but don't want it and those who don't have it because they cannot afford it. Those who choose not to have a necessity are not counted as deprived. That is only those who have an 'enforced' lack are counted as deprived, not those who lack something from choice.This allowance for choice was first introduced in the 1983 Breadline Britain survey and has been part of the PSE approach to deprivation ever since (see consensual method).
For a large majority of the household and individual items for adults, the percentage who do not have the item because they do not want it is less than 10% (16 out of 19 items). The exceptions are ‘regular savings of at least £20 a month’, for which 10% do not have but do not want, ‘appropriate cloths for job interviews’, for which 18% do not have but do not want it, and ‘regular payments into an occupational or private pension, for which 38% do not have but do not want. All these items are affected by the age of the respondent and further analysis of the age related percentages would be needed to explore this further.
By contrast, for the activities for adults, it is only a minority of these activities (2 out of 5) for which the percentages who do not do the activity because they do not want to is less than 10%. For some, the percentage not wanting to do the activity is high – notably ‘taking part in sport or exercise’ at 34%. It seems that there a general consensus that adults should take part in exercise (it is seen as a necessity) but this is not translating into practise.
For children, the percentages who do not have an item because they do not want it are generally very low with 14 out of 17 being less than 10% and the large majority (12 out of 17) 1% or 2%. Similarly the percentages who do not do an activity because they do not want to tend to be low (5 out of 7 being below 10%).
For children, in particular, there has been much discussion as to whether this allowance for choice is appropriate or whether if a child lacks a socially perceived necessity, regardless of whether an adult says they lack it because they cannot afford it, then it is an abrogation of child rights and should be treated as a deprivation. For further discussion of this question see Appendix A, ‘Enforced lack sensitivity testing’ in the PSE 2012 final report on ‘Child poverty and social exclusion’ by Gill Main and Jonathan Bradshaw.
The 2012 PSE survey included - for the first time in this run of surveys- an additional choice for activities of wanting to do the activity but not be able to do so for a reason other than lack of money. This was to enable an examination of the other pressures on people’s lives that restrict their participation in key activities whether from lack of time, caring responsibilities, discrimination, or some other reason. Those who want to do an activity but do not do so for a reason other than lack of money have not been counted as deprived. In keeping with the definition of deprivation used in previous surveys, only those who do not have an item or do not do an activity because they cannot afford it are counted as deprived.
For adults for some activities, the percentages who want to take part but cannot do so for a reason other than lack of money, the percentages are high – notably ‘visiting family and friends in hospital of other institutions’ at 20%. The percentage who do not take part in sport for other reasons than lack of money is also high at 12%.
For children, the percentages not doing the activity for a reason other than lack of money tend to be low (again 5 out of 7 being below 10%). The main exception is attending a ‘toddler group or nursery once a week’ for which 10% don’t do it for another reason (13% don’t do it because they do not want to).
There appears to be a fairly random relationship between the percent of people who think that an item is a necessity of life and the percent of people who say that they want but cannot afford the item. For those items seen as necessities by a majority, the concepts of ‘necessity’ and ‘affordability’ seem relatively uncorrelated at the population level.
See PSE survey details for the sampling size and frame of the PSE UK 2012 Living Standards survey.
First posted: 1 June, 2016
Author: Joanna Mack