300,000 More People In ‘Absolute Poverty’ Than Previously Thought

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300,000 more people could be living in “absolute poverty” in the UK than previously thought, according to a shocking new report.

Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that poorer households have experienced larger increases in living costs than richer households, mainly due to rises in food and energy prices.


IFS say that taking into account “differential inflation” since 2010-11, the number of people recorded as being in absolute poverty would be 300,000 higher in 2013-14 than official figures suggest.

Between 2002-03 and 2013-14 the poorest 20% of households saw prices increase on the typical goods they purchase by 50%, compared to richest 20% who saw prices rise by 43%.

According to the IFS, poorer households devote more of their income on things like food and energy, whereas the richest 20% of British society spend more on areas such as motoring and mortgages.

On average, the prices of goods purchased by low-income households have risen more quickly than those more commonly purchased by more affluent households. This is particularly apparent in the ‘wake’ of the 2008 recession, say IFS.

Source: IFS Poverty Study
Source: IFS Poverty Study

The government uses two different methods of measuring poverty in the UK. The first is ‘absolute poverty’, which is a measure of the number of people thought of as being below a poverty line, before housing costs, calculated using the Retail Price Index (RPI). Through this measure we can confidently say that 18.8% of individuals were living in absolute poverty in 2012-13, before housing costs.

Another method used by the government is ‘relative poverty, which calculates the number of households earning less that 60% of the national median average. Using this method we can calculate that 15.4% of the UK population were living in ‘relative poverty’ (before housing costs) in 2012-13.

The IFS study also accounts for different inflation pressures felt by households depending on how they spend their income – a measurement not included in official poverty statistics. This new measurement found that absolute poverty is 0.5% higher in 2013/14 than standard poverty measures- the equivalent of 300,000 more households.

However, the IFS say this trend has not been consistent over earlier years, adding that “this new definition had been at times higher and at times lower”.

Peter Levell, a Research Economist at IFS said: “In recent years, lower-income households have tended to see bigger increases in their cost of living than have better off households.

“Official poverty measures do not take this into account and hence have arguably understated recent increases in absolute poverty by a small but not insignificant margin.”

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:

“This report is further evidence of the huge pressures which families are facing as a result of David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis.

“The Government’s failure to tackle soaring energy, childcare bills and low wages has led to millions struggling to get by. Earlier in the year the IFS said child poverty is set to rise 900,000 by 2020.

“A Labour Government will do more to help families who are struggling to make ends meet so that every child gets the best start in life. We will freeze energy prices, raise the minimum wage, extend free childcare provision, scrap the Bedroom Tax and introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get people off benefits and into work.”

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Photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

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