"Revolutionising the way we think about poverty..."

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.


Advisory Board

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.


   Paul Allin


   Measuring National Wellbeing programme, the Office for National   Statistics


  Lady Victoria Borwick

  Assembly Member

  Greater London Authority


  Professor Mike Brewer

  Research Fellow

  Institute for Fiscal Studies


  David Brindle

  Public Services Editor

  The Guardian


  Professor David Gordon


  Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research, University of   Bristol


Katie Lane

Social Policy Officer

Citizens Advice Bureau


  Ian Mulheirn


  Social Market Foundation


  Dr Patrick Nolan

  Chief Economist



  Professor Lucinda Platt

  Principal Investigator

  Millenium Cohort Study at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies


  Jonathan Portes


  National Institute for Economic and Social Research


  Mary Riddell

  Assistant Editor

  The Daily Telegraph



research team

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.


3D Poverty
Sonia Sodha, William Bradley
Publication Date
Publication Type

This pamphlet examines the way we measure poverty and considers how these measures could be improved.

Poverty in Perspective
Claudia Wood, Jo Salter, Ally Paget, Matt Barnes, Gareth Morrell, Duncan O'Leary
Publication Date
Publication Type

This report introduces a new model for measuring poverty that could transform local services.

Jan 3

Don't stigmatise food banks

Claudia Wood on Cllr Chris Steward's comments and the difference between absolute and relative poverty.

Dec 11

It's not what you know, it’s who you know

Following the release of the latest Census results, Ally Paget looks at the challenges of local data.

Dec 5

A sleight of hand

Claudia Wood reacts to the welfare changes announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.

Dec 5

Poverty in Perspective: working-age childless households

Jo Salter describes an often overlooked group - working-age childless households in poverty.

Dec 5

Poverty in Perspective: pensioners

Claudia Wood talks through our pensioner poverty types.

Nov 29

With poverty, one size fails all

Claudia Wood argues that household poverty is complex, varied and often hidden from public view.

Nov 27

Forget what you think you know about poverty

Jo Salter introduces Poverty in Perspective, saying it provides a true picture of the low income population.

Sep 10

It does happen here

Jennifer Norton discusses child poverty awareness in the UK, following the launch of Save the Children's campaign.

Aug 1

Looking beyond 120,000 'troubled families'

Claudia Wood makes the case for a multi-dimensional measure of poverty.

Jun 14

Poverty has many faces

Jo Salter says that "shifting the goalposts" on poverty means a chance to understand and tackle the problem better.

Feb 28

Scrapping the income measure skews the way we view poverty

Jo Salter discusses the intricacies of measuring poverty and the significance of income.

Sep 20

Putting poverty into perspective

Matt Barnes discusses the joint Demos/NatCen study that will develop a new measure of poverty.

Jan 19

Early intervention is key to tackling poverty

Director Kitty Ussher looks at the range of new approaches to tackling poverty.