Research areas

Social security and poverty

A substantial part of my work at present is focussed on the extent and content of social security reform and the impact of these reforms on poverty. In particular, I am interested in:

  • The efficacy of in-work tax credits in reducing poverty amongst working households;
  • The impact of welfare reform in the UK on poverty, especially how it is experienced in the four nations of the UK and across the lifecourse.

While most of my work in this area relates to the UK, I am also interested in these issues in a wider, international perspective. In particular,

  • The expansion of social security in developing countries and the extent to which this can reduce poverty and vulnerability.

The Eurozone crisis, redistributive responses and poverty

Over the coming years, I envisage that research examining the Eurozone crisis, policies pursued in response to the crisis and their impact on poverty and deprivation will be a major focus of my work. My interests include:

  • Differences in redistributive responses pursued by European nations following the Great Recession;
  • The ongoing crisis being experienced in the bailout nations, in particular;
  • The implications of European monetary union for the welfare state;
  • The risks posed by high levels of private and public debt to people’s living standards, and
  • The extent to which crisis losses have borne by young people.

Conceptualisation and measurement of poverty and multiple deprivation

Much of my research to date has focused on the conceptualisation and measurement of poverty. In particular, my PhD thesis explored the contribution that the capability approach might make to the conceptualisation and measurement of poverty in rich nations, and was comprised of a combination of conceptual analysis and empirical analysis of the British Household Panel Survey.

As part of the conceptual work, I argued that a multidimensional, capability-inspired framework could provide a more persuasive account of the experience of poverty and deprivation than the dominant ‘relative-deprivation’ tradition of Peter Townsend. The empirical work examined the relationship between resources and functionings for different individuals and groups, across different dimensions, and over time.

I remain interested in:

  • The possibilities, challenges and issues involved in using indicators of material deprivation to measure poverty, and
  • The contribution which multidimensional poverty measures can make to understanding poverty and deprivation in different nations and over time.

The capability approach

I am also interested in the capability approach – specifically, contributing to better understanding of the approach, advancing the literature on the approach itself, and exploring its potential for understanding poverty and inequality.

In a recent paper in Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, I contribute to the spare literature which seeks to empirically verify the existence of ‘conversion factors’, which are fundamental to motivating the approach. The paper argues that the types of variation between resources and functionings are greater in number than the capability literature suggests; that academics working with the approach need to better understand the nature of these sources of variation, and that there are sometimes good reasons for resource / income-centric approaches to be taken more seriously by academics working with the capability approach.