Report reveals UK poverty rate consistent since Millennium

Social Metrics Commission poverty report
5 August, 2019


The Social Metrics Commission has launched its latest report highlighting the scale of tackling poverty across the UK.

The report reveals that 4.5 million people are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 7 million people are living in persistent poverty.

One of the report’s key findings is that overall rates of poverty have changed little since the Millennium. However, rates of poverty have changed significantly amongst different groups.

For example, poverty rates amongst pension-age adults has fallen steadily from 19% in 2000/01 to 9% in 2014/15, while at the same time, poverty rates amongst children also fell during the same period, but have increased steadily since 2014/15.

Other findings from the report include:

  • On average, those in poverty have moved closer to the poverty line now than would have been the case in 2000/01. However, a third (31%) of people in poverty – 4.5 million people – are more than 50% below the poverty line, and this proportion has not changed since the Millennium.
  • Just under half (49%) of those in poverty – 7 million people – are in persistent poverty, meaning they are in poverty now and have also been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years.
  • Rates of persistent poverty vary significantly by different groups, with 2.3 million children, 1.2 million people living in lone-parent families, and 1.8 million of those living in workless households experiencing persistent poverty.
  • Poverty persistence is particularly high for those in deep levels of poverty. Three fifths (59%) of those living more than 50% below the poverty line are also in persistent poverty, compared to just over a third (36%) of those living within 5% of the poverty line.
  • Nearly half (48%) of people in poverty – totalling 6.8 million people – live in a family where someone is disabled.
  • The poverty rate for people living in families where all adults work full time is just 10%, compared to 58% where all adults work part time and 70% in workless families.
  • Poverty rates amongst families from ethnic minorities are particularly high. Nearly half (46%) of people in families with a black head of household and 37% of people in families with an Asian head of household are in poverty, compared to 19% of people in a family with a white head of household. However, 76% of those in poverty live in families with a head of household who is white.
  • Poverty rates vary across the UK. Compared to the UK average of 22%, poverty rates are higher in Wales (24%) and London (28%) and lower in the South East (18%), Scotland and Northern Ireland (both 20%).

The Social Metrics Commission was formed in 2016 to help policymakers and the public understand and take action to tackle poverty. The commission has been developing a new experimental measurement of poverty, in order to gain more accurate statistics on poverty in the UK.

The new measure takes into account all material resources available to families and individuals and not just incomes. It also accounts for inescapable costs such as the extra costs of disability, costs of childcare and rental and mortgage costs.