Research areas

Social security and poverty

I continue to take an active interest in the extent of poverty amongst working households and how cuts to tax credits/Universal Credit will impact on working families and children. In addition, I am interested in:

  • The extent to which rising housing costs, and changes in housing tenure patterns, are exacerbating poverty, and what might be done about this.

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

I am currently conducting research on how the Great Recession and Eurozone crises have impacted on welfare states and poverty rates in Europe. My interests include:

  • Differences in redistributive responses pursued by European nations following the Great Recession;
  • The 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 early research 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 considerations, norms and principles that relate to poverty measurement, and how recent debates have neglected these to focus on the narrower issue of evaluating competing measurement indices.

The capability approach

I am also interested in the capability approach – specifically, advancing understanding of the approach, contributing to the the literature on the approach itself, and exploring and interrogating 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.