In-work poverty in the UK

Over the past year, I have been leading a study on working poverty in the UK, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The aims of this project are to provide a robust analysis of the nature of in-work poverty in the UK, the events which explain why people enter and exit in-work poverty, and the contribution which policy can and does make to alleviating poverty amongst working households. The project took as its starting point recent evidence that demonstrates that households where at least one person is in work account for a rising share of poor households. In December 2013, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report which found that ‘for the first time on record, the majority of people in poverty are in working families’ (MacInnes et al., 2013: 26). From a policy perspective, this is deeply problematic given that both of the main political parties argue that work offers the best route out of poverty.

Research Questions

The project seeks to generate new evidence about in-work poverty in the UK by answering three research questions:

1) What is the extent of in-work poverty, and who experiences it?

2) What is the relationship between social security & tax credits and in-work poverty, and how has this changed over time?

3) How common are entries to and exits from in-work poverty, and what events are associated with such transitions?

Method and Research Design

The project comprises quantitative analysis of the Family Resources Survey/Households Below Average Income and Understanding Society surveys. It seeks to introduce innovations in terms of the analysis of in-work poverty by moving beyond an exclusive focus on the 60% median income poverty measure to assess the extent and nature of in-work poverty using a range of poverty measures; by providing a more in-depth assessment of the relationship between social security and tax credits and in-work poverty than appears in existing studies; and by contributing to the sparse literature on in-work poverty transitions. The research will identify a series of policy options to tackle in-work poverty in the UK and will discuss the contribution that these options might make to reducing poverty amongst working families.

Final report: released 22 May

You can access the final report from this research here.