While Northern Ireland had long been recognised as one of the most deprived parts of the United Kingdom, comparisons with other regions and countries was difficult as little specific data on poverty had been collected. Northern Ireland was not included in the earlier PSE and Breadline Britain surveys and had no tradition of publishing household income data. The PSE Northern Ireland survey set out to redress this. The core aims of the research were:
- to provide a benchmark for future measurement of poverty and social exclusion
- to provide data on the extent to which poverty and social exclusion vary across the nine dimensions of equality specified in Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998
- to provide data to enable comparisons with Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
The research followed the consensual method for measuring poverty, as developed in the Breadline Britain and PSE Britain surveys. Two surveys were undertaken. In the first survey a random sample of 1,070 people were asked to say which material items and social activities they regarded as necessities of life at the start of the 21st century. In the second survey a different random sample of 1,976 households and 3,104 individuals were asked about their possession or otherwise of the items considered in the necessities survey. Respondents were asked a range of further questions to explore the nature of poverty and social exclusion, including questions looking at the impact of ‘the troubles’ on social exclusion. By interviewing individuals within the household, the survey could also look at living standards within households.
The PSENI research was designed and directed by Paddy Hillyard, Eithne McLaughlin and Mike Tomlinson, at Queen’s University Belfast and funded by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the Department of Finance and Personnel, with support from the Treasury’s evidence-based policy fund.
The key findings of the Poverty and Social Exclusion in Northern Ireland 2002/03 survey are published in Bare Necessities by Paddy Hillyard et al. (Democratic Dialogue, 2003). The research team also published a range of bulletins and working papers on:
Paddy Hillyard, Bill Rolston and Mike Tomlinson drew on the findings for a major report for the Combat Poverty Agency in Ireland:
In addition, the 2003 Poverty and Social Exclusion, Northern Ireland research data was analysed for a number of reports for the Equality and Social Exclusion in Ireland project, including:
- Children and Family Poverty in Northern Ireland, Eithne McLaughlin and Marina Monteith, 2006
- Equality, Ethics, Justice and the care of adults in Northern Ireland, Fran Porter and Eithne McLaughlin, 2006
- Severe Child Poverty and Social Exclusion in Northern Ireland, Marina Monteith and Eithne McLaughlin, 2005
- What makes people happy? Some evidence from Ireland, Vani K. Borooah, 2004
The PSENI, 2003, findings were also used in research supported by the SEPBU’s Peace II Initiative in Northern Ireland and the Border counties:
Comparisons between the results of this 2003 survey, the Breadline Britain 1983 and 1990 surveys and the current PSE: UK 2012 survey can be found under UK trends. PSE Northern Ireland 2002/03 findings provides a short summary of key results. In the coming months we plan to put more data from this research study onto the website.