Measuring poverty

The Social Metrics Commission uses Understanding Society to measure poverty persistence in their annual Measuring Poverty report.

The Social Metrics Commission was founded in 2016 with the aim of developing a new approach to poverty measurement. Their first report on poverty in the UK was published in 2018. Their second report has now been published. The aim of the analysis is to give a more accurate measure for poverty levels that better reflect the nature and experiences of poverty that different families in the UK have. The new measure is being used by the Department for Work and Pensions to develop experimental statistics on poverty.

The 2019 report uses the most recent data to record the lived experience of poverty in the UK. The Social Metrics Commission found that:

  • There are 14.3 million people in poverty in the UK. This includes 8.3 million working-age adults; 4.6 million children; and 1.3 million pension-age adults.
  • The current rate of poverty is 22%, which is the same as last year and only slightly lower than the 24% seen in 2000/01.
  • Just under half (49%) of those in poverty – 7 million people. 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.
  • Nearly half (48%) of people in poverty – totalling 6.8 million people – live in a family where someone is disabled.

How was Understanding Society used?

The Social Metrics Commission used Understanding Society to measure the level of poverty persistance - that is people who are in poverty now and have also been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years. Poverty persistence is particularly high for those in deep levels of poverty. The Commission found that 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. 

You can read the full report here.