Poverty in Perspective

About the grafters

This group makes up the largest proportion (31 per cent) of families in poverty. The vast majority of households in this group contain more than one adult. Households in this group have low incomes but perform well across the other indicators. They tend to be homeowners, have high levels of qualification and employment, are not short of material goods, and report that they are coping financially. They live in the least deprived neighbourhoods and are likely to be engaged in community activity and politics.

Low income

All the poverty groups have a household income below 70% of median income. Within this, they have been subdivided into five income bands.

48% of households in this group are in the bottom two income bands – the lowest of all families in poverty.

Lacking material goods

This captures the extent to which families lack typical consumer durables such as a TV or washing machine.

Only 15% of families in this group fall in the most materially deprived bands.

Low/no employment

This is the proportion of working age household members who are not in employment (either full or part-time).

Only 13% of households in this group have no adult member in work.

Behind on bills

This captures whether households have been behind on one or more bill payments in the last 12 months.

Only 10% of this group are behind in paying any bills.


This reflects whether households contain too few rooms for the number of occupants.

This group is the least at risk of overcrowding; only 2% have too few rooms.

Lone adult households

This distinguishes between households composed of a single adult or of multiple adults. (The presence of more than one adult in a household with children does not necessarily mean that this is a two-parent household.)

We have chosen to code lone adult households as negative and presence of multiple adults in a household as positive, thinking of multiple adults as an asset (as it increases the potential for household income). However, lone adult or lone parent status is not necessarily a disadvantage.

Lone adult households make up only 2% of this group.

Low participation

This indicates whether households report low levels of trust in strangers (used as a proxy for community participation).

These families are the most community-spirited by some way, with only 26% in the lowest band for participation.

Disinterest in politics

This shows the extent to which household members describe themselves as not interested in politics.

This is the most politically engaged of the family types, with only 49% reporting little or no interest.

Carer for a child

This captures whether anyone in the household is caring for a child with a health condition or disability.

This is true of 5% of families in this group.


This distinguishes between those who rent and those who own their homes. We have chosen to code renting as negative and home ownership as positive, thinking of ownership as an asset.

However, ownership is also associated with additional costs, e.g. mortgage payments and maintenance, which may contribute to poverty.

Only 8% of this group rent their homes.

Limited car access

This is based on the ratio of cars to adults in a household. We have chosen to code lack of access to a car as negative and car ownership as positive, thinking of ownership as an asset. However, car ownership is associated with additional costs that may contribute to poverty.

None of the families in this group is without access to a car.

Low/no qualifications

This reflects the educational attainment of the head of the household, from having no qualifications to having a degree.

This group has the highest level of educational attainment; only 2% of are without any qualifications.

Physical ill health

This is a self-reported measure of physical health for all adults in the household.

At least 13% of these families have some physical health problems.

Mental ill health

This is a self-reported measure of mental health for all adults in the household.

In 22% of these families, at least adult has poor mental wellbeing.

Lack of neighbourhood support

This indicates whether respondents report feeling poorly supported by their neighbours and neighbourhood.

37% of this group feel they have little support.

Lack of family support

This indicates whether respondents report not living near to, or having only infrequent contact with, family.

This group has the most contact with family; only 7% of this group are without regular family support.

Financial worries

This shows the extent to which respondents feel they are struggling financially.

Only 17% of this group report any difficulty.

Fuel poverty

This captures whether people are struggling to afford to heat their home.

3% of this group have difficulty keeping their home warm enough.

Deprived neighbourhood

This illustrates how deprived the household’s neighbourhood is on a national ranking.

Only 22% of families live in more deprived neighbourhoods.

Lifestyle deprivation

This shows the extent to which households cannot afford common services and leisure experiences such as replacing worn out household items, or meals out.

7% of these families are missing out on some experiences.

The grafters – Julia

Julia is a mum in her late 30s, living with her husband, and her two youngest children, who are attending primary school. Her oldest daughter is living with her boyfriend. The family owns their own home, and are slowly paying back a mortgage. Julia is settled in her local area, having lived there for over 20 years. There used to be problems with litter, fights and other disturbances in the neighbourhood, but these have improved in recent years.

Last year, Julia was made redundant from her part-time job, and is now adjusting to life as a full-time housewife and mum. Her husband is self-employed, so his earnings fluctuate from month to month – in the past, Julia has always topped up his wages, and allowed the family to live relatively comfortably.

As a result, Julia’s current unemployment has had a big impact on the family’s income, and forced them to budget very carefully, buying cheaper goods and cutting out all ‘luxury’ spending. In this way, she feels that the family are just about able to get by – though they are not able to save up for a holiday this year.

She claims housing benefit to help pay her rent, but she does not claim everything that she is entitled to, as she feels strongly that she and her husband should pay for things themselves as far as they are able.

Despite these worries, Julia feels that she has the skills and qualifications to help her find a new job in the near future. The last time she experienced unemployment – several years previously – she took three part-time jobs that allowed her to juggle childcare while bringing in some extra income.

This pen portrait is a composite – different elements have been drawn from different interviewees. No real names have been used.