The Extent of Material Deprivation in the UK

2019 statistics show a decline in the number of households in material deprivation

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Material deprivation* refers to the inability to afford basic resources and services such as sufficient food and heating.

To put it more simply, all of those who suffer material deprivation in the UK  exist in a state of relative poverty, and some may exist in a state of absolute poverty.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) recent publication: Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK: 2019 is a good source informing us about the extent of material deprivation in the UK today. 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that “families are classified as materially deprived if they feel they cannot afford a certain number of items or activities, with greater weight assigned to items that most families already have.”

According to the IFS, between 8-15% of households are suffering from material deprivation, depending on what threshold you use. (If you want to know how the thresholds are worked, out click on the link above!).

In order to figure out how many households are suffering material deprivation, households are asked whether they can afford a number of items, such as the ones below. The more items a family can’t afford, and the higher up the list they appear in the chart below, the more likely a family is to be classified as ‘materially deprived’.

You can see that there is a downward trend in material deprivation between 2010-11 (careful, the chart above is over a longer time scale!)

Related concepts

The above study focuses on the trends in material deprivation as well as trends in both absolute and relative poverty. All three indicators are different ways of measuring poverty.

Related Posts 

Evaluating the Extent of Material Deprivation in the UK

The effects of material deprivation on education

Something Extra…

*A fuller definition of material deprivation is provided by the The OECD which defines Material deprivation as ‘the inability for individuals or households to afford those consumption goods and activities that are typical in a society at a given point in time, irrespective of people’s preferences with respect to these items.’ It’s work noting at this point that this is a relative rather than an absolute measurement of poverty.

Historical Material

I wrote this back in 2015, it’s my old version that I didn’t want to delete! It shows you some different, historical definitions/ measurement of material deprivation

The government’s material deprivation rate measures the proportion of the population that cannot afford at least four of the following items:

  1. To pay their rent, mortgage, utility bills or loan repayments,
  2. To keep their home adequately warm,
  3. To face unexpected financial expenses,
  4. To eat meat or protein regularly,
  5. To go on holiday for a week once a year,
  6. A television set,
  7. A washing machine,
  8. A car,
  9. A telephone.

As can be seen from the statistics below, the number of people suffering from ‘severe’ material deprivation has remained stable in recent years, but the numbers of people struggling to pay for holidays and meet emergency expenses has increased. Percentage of population unable to afford items, UK 2005-2011

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