This project has now been launched with its own micro-site, which can be accessed here.
This ground-breaking project will redefine poverty for the 21st century. Demos, in conjunction with leading social research organisation NatCen, will develop an entirely fresh way to think about poverty in the UK by establishing new ‘types’ of poverty defined by more than just income. These types will be characterised by a wide range of factors such as education, housing, access to services, physical mobility and capabilities.
For decades, politicians and policymakers have tended to go straight to the most common definition of poverty: households that live below 60 per cent of median income. But, although useful for showing how the poorest members of society are doing in relation to others, using income alone to measure poverty leaves a host of questions, as well as solutions, unanswered. In contrast, this analysis will investigate the lived experience of poverty, putting a human face on a phenomenon that is too often dealt with in the abstract.
Our previous work on poverty measurement, such as 3D Poverty, revealed the significance of how poverty is defined for future policy. After all, how poverty is understood has a direct impact on how it is measured, which in turn influences how the problem is approached.
This project is not only about measurement, it will also develop practical techniques to combat it in real-life situations. We will ultimately be devising a unique toolkit to be used by councils and experts to work out who is in poverty, what kinds of poverty exist and how best to tackle the issue.
The definition of poverty as ‘low income’ has meant that attempts to tackle poverty are almost exclusively focused on improving people’s incomes, usually through work. A parallel drive to improve life chances has seen increased investment in early years care and education for deprived families, but this has not been joined up with the poverty reduction agenda. A focus on these two, albeit important, factors has left many people in desperate situations overlooked.
So there is a clear need to improve the way in which poverty is defined and measured.
The Multidimensional Poverty project will combine quantitative and qualitative research:
• Workshops with charity directors, academic experts and local authority officers.
• Analysis of the Understanding Society dataset.
• In-depth interviews with those living in poverty.
• The developing and piloting of a toolkit to identify those in the different types of poverty in a local council area.
The project is being guided by an advisory board, drawn from a range of organisations and institutions with expertise in poverty and its social effects.
Lady Victoria Borwick
Professor Mike Brewer
Public Services Editor
Professor David Gordon
Social Policy Officer
Dr Patrick Nolan
Professor Lucinda Platt
The project will be supervised and managed day-to-day by Claudia Wood, Head of Public Services and Welfare at Demos.
Claudia’s specialist areas include health, care and welfare policy, and disability and ageing.
The research team at Demos includes Jo Salter, who is a Junior Associate at Demos.
NatCen’s work will be led by Gareth Morrell, Research Director in the Society and Social Change Team at NatCen.
Gareth has led a wide range of qualitative studies across a number of policy areas including welfare and employment, retirement, educational interventions and socio-legal studies.
Gareth will be supported by Matt Barnes, a research director at NatCen.
Matt is one of a number of dedicated Analysts at NatCen. Matt spends much of his time understanding policy areas, analysing survey data and writing reports that present our analysis and interpretations. His main areas of interest are poverty, social exclusion and work-life balance.
NatCen is Britain's leading independent social research institute. Our work covers all areas of social policy and our aim is a society better informed through high quality research.
For more information on the project please contact Claudia Wood at Demos.
This project is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK and is funding our research. The organisation funds projects that aim to change people’s lives for the better.
This pamphlet examines the way we measure poverty and considers how these measures could be improved.
This report introduces a new model for measuring poverty that could transform local services.
Jo Salter describes an often overlooked group - working-age childless households in poverty.
Jo Salter discusses the intricacies of measuring poverty and the significance of income.