Households below a Minimum Income Standard: 2008/9 to 2011/12

JRF-logoCommissioned research show almost 1 million more households in the UK are living below the minimum income standard, taking the figure to 4.7 million households at 2011/12.

Key points

  • The most severe increase has been among single people of working age, where the percentage unable to afford this minimum acceptable standard of living rose from 29 per cent to 36 per cent.
  • Among single people aged under 35 it rose even faster, from 29 to 42 per cent. This group also had an even greater increase in risk of having extremely low incomes, of less than half the minimum required.
  • Two in three people in lone parent families are now below Minimum Income Standard.
  • Pensioners and couples without children remain the most likely to have an adequate income.

The full report can be opened here.

Tackling in-work poverty by supporting dual-earning families

JRF-logoHow can working families be helped out of poverty?

Research published this month reviewed trends in employment among couple families with children and considered policies and the wider context in four areas likely to affect their employment rate: family leave, childcare, the labour market, and the tax and benefit system.

Key Findings

  • The risk of poverty is much higher for children in couple families where only one parent works;
  • sole earner families account for a significant minority of poor families with children.
  • Many fathers have to work long hours, making it harder for them to get involved in family life and more difficult for mothers to work.

To enable more low-income families to have both partners in work, authors recommend allowing second earners to keep more of their wages before means-tested benefits are withdrawn; more publically-funded affordable childcare; and phasing in more generous family leave, including longer paternity leave.

Please click here to open the full report, with a summary also available.

Ten of the most important questions to ask about UK poverty

JRF-logoPoverty research must provide useful answers for policy and practice, says Chris Goulden.

To deal with entrenched problems of poverty in the UK, serious improvements need to be made to knowledge about the causes of poverty and the effectiveness of potential solutions.

As reported in the recent UBD full report (p.41):

One in four children in the District lives below the poverty line (households with less than 60% of average income) equating to 36,080 0-18 year olds. Bradford’s rate is more than the national average or West Yorkshire rate. A further third of the District’s children live in households that have low income plus material deprivation.

A two-day exercise led by a partnership between JRF and the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge identified the most important unanswered and researchable questions about poverty.

Ten of the most important questions were:

  • What values, frames and narratives are associated with greater support for tackling poverty, and why?
  • How do images of people in poverty influence policy debates in different countries?
  • What are the most effective methods of increasing involvement and support for the education of children among their parents or guardians?
  • What explains variation in wages as a share of GDP internationally?
  • What is the nature and extent of poverty among those who do not or cannot access the safety net when they need it?
  • How could targeting and incentivising payment of the Living Wage make it more effective at reducing household poverty?
  • What are the positive and negative impacts of digital technologies on poverty?
  • How do environmental and social regulations or obligations affect prices for those in poverty?
  • Who benefits from poverty, and how?
  • What evidence is there that economic growth reduces poverty overall, and under what circumstances?

The full paper 100 Questions: identifying research priorities for poverty prevention and reduction published in Journal of Poverty & Social Justice as an Open Access paper can be accessed here.

Focusing on extreme cases won’t help us bridge the rich/poor education attainment gap

JRF-logoSensationalist stories of neglectful parents make for good headlines but they have little to do with the reality of closing the education attainment gap, warns Helen Barnard.

By age 16 only 35% of children receiving free school meals gain 5 A*-C grades at GCSE, compared to  62% of children not on free school meals. This attainment gap appears long before school age. It has narrowed slightly in recent years but remains stubbornly large.

In 2010 the JRF published a major study showing that by the age of three there are already big  differences in cognitive, social and emotional development between children from richer and poorer  backgrounds. By five years old children in poverty are around eight months behind their peers.

Key points

  • The aspirations, attitudes and behaviour of parents and children potentially play an important part in  explaining why poor children typically do worse at school.
  • Children from poorer backgrounds are much less likely to experience a rich home learning environment  than children from better-off backgrounds. At age three, reading to the child and the wider home learning environment are very important for children’s educational development.
  • The gap between children from richer and poorer backgrounds widens especially quickly during primary  school. Some of the factors that appear to explain this are:
    – parental aspirations for higher education;
    – how far parents and children believe their own actions can affect their lives; and
    – children’s behavioural problems.
  • It becomes harder to reverse patterns of under-achievement by the teenage years, but disadvantage and  poor school results continue to be linked, including through:
    – teenagers’ and parents’ expectations for higher education;
    – material resources such as access to a computer and the internet at home;
    – engagement in anti-social behaviour; and
    – young people’s belief in their own ability at school.
  • The research found that cognitive skills are passed from parents to children across the generations.  This also helps explain why children from poorer backgrounds underperform in school.

Links to read :-

Full Blog post by the JRF and their 2010 report.