22% of the UK population, or 13.9 million people live in poverty in the UK (2016). Poverty rates are higher for lone parent households (46%), disabled households (34), and rates also vary significantly by ethnicity (e.g. the Bangladeshi poverty rate = 50%).
In brief, 22% of the UK population, or 13.9 million people live in poverty in the UK (2016). Poverty rates are higher for lone parent households (46%), disabled households (34), and rates also vary significantly by ethnicity (e.g. the Bangladeshi poverty rate = 50%).
Below is a summary of the latest statistics on the characteristics of those living in poverty in the UK. NB These are the latest stats I could find which have been comprehensively analysed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, based on their 2017: Poverty in the UK report.
If you can’t see the above chart online (it’s designed to be downloaded and printed off in A3) the it’s all replicated below!
Basic Poverty in the UK Statistics
A total of 13.9 million people lived in poverty in the UK in 2015-16, or 22% of people live below the poverty line, 30% children, and 18% of pensioners. However, there is significant variation between the proportion of working age adults, pensioners and children living in poverty.
What is Poverty?
Relative poverty: the stats in the JRF report summarised here mainly show ‘relative poverty’: when a family has an income of less than 60% of median income for their family type, after housing costs.
A related measure is persistent poverty which is when a person is currently in poverty and has been in poverty for at least two of the three preceding years.
For more details for different ways of defining and measuring poverty please see this post: What is poverty?
Poverty rates by household type
46% of lone parent households are in poverty, twice as many as all other household types.
The ‘poverty line’ varies by household type:
Family type £ per week, equivalised,
Couple with no children = £248
Single with no children = £144
Couple with two children* = £401
Single with two children* = £297
*aged 5 to 14
Poverty varies most significantly by disability
In 2016 34% of working-age adults in families with disabled members lived in poverty, compared with 17% of those who did not.
Poverty also varies by ethnicity
Approx. 2016 rates for working age adults Bangladeshi – 50%, Pakistani – 45%, Black British 37%, White – 19%.
Find out more…
There are other variations in poverty highlighted by the JRF report (link above), I’ve just selected the main ‘in focus’ trends as things stand in 2017.
NB on the ‘data lag’ – that’s just one of the problems of Official Statistics more generally – most of the data above has been analysed from various different types of government stats, which are already a year out of data before the ONS publishes them, then you have wait further for the JRF summary. If you want the 2018 stats, you’ll just have to wait til 2019!
If you like this sort of thing, then you might also like my previous post on ‘Poverty Trends’ in the UK, which looks at how poverty rates changed between 1996 and 2016.
How do we explain the long term decline in UK Poverty rate, and its more recent increase?
The UK has seen significant falls in poverty over the last 20 years, HOWEVER, this progress is now at risk of reversing as poverty rates have been increasing in recent years. This blog posts summarizes the 20 year trend in UK Poverty according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s 2017 Poverty Report. Specifically it looks at:
The overall 20 year trend in UK poverty
poverty among pensioners and children
Three drivers of the reduction in poverty rates
Three threats to the continued reduction in poverty rates
NB I’m using the same information from the report, but I’ve changed the order in which it’s reported and summarized it down further. Personally I think my version is much more immediately accessible to your ‘non-expert’: IMO the ‘JRF have a tendency to ‘over-report’ reams of nuanced data, and the overall picture just gets lost. The detail’s important if you’re a policy wonk, but probably going to get lost on the average, interested member of the general public.
Before reading this post you might like to check out my ‘what is poverty?‘ post which covers the basic definition of some of the terms used below.
The overall 20 year trend in UK poverty….the fall and rise of UK poverty rates
20 years ago, in 1996, nearly a quarter (24%) of the UK’s population lived in poverty. By 2004, this had fallen to one in five (20%) of the population. However, by 2016, the proportion had risen slightly to 22%.
*Relative poverty is when a family has an income of less than 60% of median income for their family type, after housing costs.
Children and pensioners living in poverty
As the chart above clearly shows, the biggest success stories in the long term reduction in poverty over the last 20 years are the numbers of pensioners who have been taken out of poverty and (to a lesser extent) the number of children.. As the chart above shows:
In 1995, 28% of pensioners lived in poverty, falling to 13% in 2012, but rising to 16% by 2016.
In 1995, a third of children lived in poverty, falling to 27% in 2012, but rising to 30% in 2016
However, during that time the proportion of working age couples without children in poverty actually grew slightly, from 16% to 18%.
Factors correlated with falling poverty rates
The report notes three main factors which are mainly responsible for this long term overall decline in poverty:
Rising employment, linked with higher wages due to the minimum wage, and better education.
Increased support through benefits, especially the increase in the state pension age, but also out of work benefits for working age people with children
Housing benefit and increased home ownership containing the impact of rising rents.
Factors explaining the long term decrease of UK Poverty in more depth
It seems that the main drivers behind the long-term decrease in poverty in the UK are the ‘positive’ economic factors such as improvements in the employment rate, pay and conditions, rather than increases to benefits.
Below I select what appear to be the five most import factors from the report which explain the long term decrease in poverty.
The increase in the state pension
The most significant reduction in poverty has been achieved with pensioners, and according to the JRF report, the main reason for this was a one off increase in the state pension at the beginning of the century:
NB – there is a lot of variation in pensioner income, which I may explore in a future post…
The employment rate has increase from around 71% in 1996 to around 75% in 2016…
NB – while you are statistically more likely to be in poverty if you’re not in-work, being employed it itself is not sufficient to avoid being in poverty. Both the introduction of the minimum wage, and changes to in work benefits for lone parents have been essential to making sure that a higher proportion of people in employment are also not officially in poverty. While work today is more likely to lift you out of poverty than in 1996, it remains the case that a large percentage of those in poverty are in-work (typically in part-time jobs).
Earnings are up for people with all levels of qualifications…
Obviously higher earnings are more likely to lift people out of poverty, HOWEVER, at the bottom end of the income earning scale, and especially for those with children and in part-time jobs, the increasing cost of living, especially rent (but also childcare and even food and utilities) has negated much of the above increase in wages, hence why government support in the form of child tax credits and housing benefit remains important.
The number of people with degrees has nearly trebled in this period: from around 12% of the UK population to over 30%
Those with degrees earn approximately twice the amount of those with no qualifications, so it would seem that New Labour’s focus on ‘education, education, education‘, and their push to get more people into higher education has had a positive impact in poverty reduction. However, with the introduction of tuition fees and with increasing competition for highly skilled jobs coming from abroad, it’s not clear that this trend (of more and more people getting degrees) is set to continue.
The introduction of the national minimum wage has resulted in a 46% relative pay increase for the poorest 10%, compared to a 40% median national increase
Both the introduction of the minimum wage and its subsequent increases seem to have been one of the most important factors in tackling in-work poverty. However, even with the minimum wage, a possible future barrier to further poverty reduction lies in the growth of precarious jobs leading to ‘underemployment’ – where people get too few hours to earn a decent living. For more on this, see my summary of the RSA’s report on ‘Future Work in the UK‘.
The increase in out of work benefits for people with children
Basically, there has a been a very slight long-term increase in out of work benefits for people with children, who are now slightly better off than 20 years ago, while poor people without children have seen no change, or are slightly worse off.
I guess this leads to an overall reduction in the poverty rate simply because there are more people per family household rather than just couple or single person household.
You can see from the above chart, that lone parents claiming JSA and child benefits were briefly lifted to 60% of median income (just on the poverty line) – sufficient to take them out of poverty, however, you can also see that benefits are again being cut back, so we can probably expect poverty rates to increase again in the future!
And one factor which doesn’t seem to explain the overall reduction in poverty… changes to in-work benefits…
With the exception of single parents who are better off over a twenty year period, every other household type seems to be worse off! Thus I can’t see how this variable would explain the long term decrease in UK poverty.
Potential barriers to further reductions in poverty
All three of the main drivers of poverty reduction mentioned above are now under question:
The continued rise in employment is no longer reducing poverty.
State support for low-income families is falling in real terms, and negates the gains made by increasing employment and wages.
Rising rents, less help for low-income renters and falling home ownership leave more people struggling to meet the cost of housing.
The number of violent crimes and sex offences recorded by police in England and Wales have more than doubled in the last four years.
This is an excellent article by the BBC summarising this trend, with a pretty shocking embedded video in which reporters witness two serious crimes: one ‘moped mugging’ and another just ‘regular’ attempted mugging in a park.
The latest police figures for the 12 months to September from 44 forces show:
68,968 robbery offences, up 29%
138,045 sex offences, up 23%
37,443 knife crime offences, up 21%
1,291,405 violent crime offences, up 20%
However the ONS says higher-harm violent offences, such as knife crime occur in relatively low volumes, and also tend to be concentrated in cities and are therefore not “well-measured” by the Crime Survey.
Analysis (from the BBC)
Although there’s likely to be a dispute about the accuracy of the police crime figures because they hinge, to some extent, on the way forces log offences, how pro-active they are and the willingness of victims to come forward, they clearly demonstrate a rapidly rising caseload.
At the same time, the number of police officers has continued to fall: in the 12 months to last September, down 930 to 121,929. That combination – rising crime, declining police numbers – is creating enormous strain for forces.
Applying Perspectives to explain this increase in crime:
From Right Realist perspective, this increase crime will be a direct result of the declining police numbers, although the decline is so small, it probably doesn’t explain that much of the decrease.
From a Left Realist perspective, it could be due to increasing levels of marginalisation and relative deprivation (more likely?)
I think we can rule out postmodernism in the above cases – I don’t think (I might be wrong) that serious violent and sexual offences are done for the ‘thrill of the act’ – I’m fairly sure criminals don’t enjoy mugging people, for example.
From an Interactionist point of view, this increase in Police Recorded Crime (NB not reflected in the CSEW) is just an artefact of more people reporting crime – so there’s not necessarily a corresponding underlying increase.
What do you think the reasons are for the increase in the amount of violent crime recorded by the police in recent years?
The topic of domestic abuse is relevant to the families and households and crime and deviance modules within A-level sociology, as well as providing some of the strongest supporting evidence for the continued relevance of Feminism more generally in contemporary society.
It’s also one of those topics that’s good to teach (sensitively) for more ‘humanistic reasons’ – raising awareness of the nature and extent, and underlying dynamics of domestic abuse could play a role in helping prevent today’s teenagers being victims (or even perpetrators!) of this crime.
Below I provide some ‘starting point’ resources which students can use to research the nature and extent of domestic abuse in England and Wales.
Victim Support – Victim Support is an independent charity which supports victims of crime. Their section on domestic abuse is a a very accessible guide to the basic definition and different types of domestic abuse, as well as containing information about how to get support if your a Victim, or you think someone else is.
Women’s Aid – most of their research publications focus on the state of domestic abuse services (e.g. refuges) provided by the state and what happens to the survivors of domestic abuse.
The NSPCC – focusing on children and domestic abuse (which the ONS stats above do not cover). 1 in 5 children have been exposed to domestic abuse – either as victims themselves, or witnessing it.
The Femicide Census – profiles of women killed by men – 113 women were killed by men in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2016 – 69% of them by their intimate partners, and only 8% by strangers. This 2017 publication by Women’s Aid outlines some of the grim facts of this crime.
A very useful website from the U.S. is The Recovery Village – It contains information on how to leave an abusive relationship, how to help a victim of domestic violence, and more. One of its key aims to empower victims of domestic abuse and their loved ones.
The above are really just some useful ‘starting point’ links…. Further Sources to Follow!
Has there been an increase in hate crime since Brexit?
The Number of hate crimes reported to the police in England and Wales between 2012-13 and 2016-17 jumped by 90%, but is this because of an actual, underlying increase in hate crime incidents (or the seriousness of incidents that would warrant reporting), or is it just because people are now more likely to report ‘hate crimes’, maybe having interpreted something as a hate crime when, in fact, it wasn’t.
There is some evidence that suggests ‘misinterpreting’ or ‘over-reporting might be the case – court convictions in 2016 were lower than in 2010.
Possible increases for the increase in reporting are as follows:
The authorities actively encourage it
incidents can be registered anonymously
The victim or witness to a crime only has to interpret a crime as being racially motivated (for example) for it to be classed as a hate crime.
No evidence is needed to back up the reporting of the hate crime to get it recorded.
So it might just be, that there has not been an increase in hate crime at all, this could just be a complete social construction.
In fact, this ‘increase’ might be harmful – in that it suggests that we are more divided than we actually are!
A 2016 poll by Nationwide found that the average Brit spends £645 on Christmas. On average, people in the UK spend…
£117 on Christmas presents for their partner,
£145 on presents for their children,
£20 on their pet (lucky pets!).
This broadly corresponds with the Bank of England’s findings on Christmas spending which found that our spending in December increasing by around £500 per month. OK they’re not exactly the same, but in the same sort of ‘region’, and not crazily different (to use the technical term).
Looked at by household – A Survey by Go Compare (1) found that the average British household expects to spend £753 on Christmas festivities this year. Collectively that’s a staggering £21 billion splashed out on presents, food and drink, parties and decorations.
Regional Variations in Spending
Unsurprisingly, households on lower incomes spend a higher proportion of their monthly income on Christmas than – According to this BBC article, people in the North East spend around 26%, while in London the figure falls to around 16% of monthly household income.
The article also cites anecdotal evidence that people in poorer areas spend more on presents than people in richer areas.
Debt and Christmas
Again, according to the above BBC article, The Money Advice Trust, a charity which runs the National Debtline, polled 2,000 people and found 37% are putting Christmas presents on credit. NB As far as I can tell these are 2015 figures (it’s not that clear from the article!)
34 percent borrowed money to cover the cost of Christmas presents – figure equating to an estimated 16.9 million people.
More than one in five (21 percent) borrowed to put food on the Christmas table – equating to an estimated 10.4 million people.
All in all, it seems like there’s a lot of evidence that for the poorest third of households, it’s not so much Christmas, but more like Debtmass, which offers broad support for the validity of a Marxist theory of Christmas.
As of 2017, there were over 250 000 children in ‘Converter Academies’, 86, 000 students in sponsored academies, and 170 000 students in LEA maintained schools. This that in 2017 there were twice as many students in converter and sponsored academies combined as there are in LEA funded mainstream schools….
Free Schools, meanwhile, cater to only just over 3000 students, with studio schools the least popular type of school, with only 1200 students.
Click on the link above, for the (slightly lame) interactive version… NB this is me still trying to get my head around Tableau!
there are 16 million people aged 16 or over who are ‘single and have never cohabited or married’, equivalent to 34.5% of the adult population.
there are 19.8 million people ‘not living as a couple’, equivalent to 39% of the adult population.
The problem with these statistics is that they do not actually tell us how many ‘single’ people there are in England and Wales (let alone the United Kingdom) – at least not if we take the commonly accepted definition of a single person as ‘someone who is unmarried or not involved in a stable sexual relationship’.
Below I explore why I think there are way less single people in the country than these official statistics suggest…
Single people never cohabited or married
There are 16 million people who are ‘single and never cohabited or married’, equivalent to 34.5% of the population aged over 16 in England and Wales, at least according to Office for National Statistics, 2015 data.
However, while it is interesting to know how many people are ‘single, and have never married or cohabited’, this isn’t the same as the number of people who are actually single, for the following reasons:
Firstly, and probably most obviously, this system of categorization does not tell us the proportion of divorced or widowed people who not married but are in relationships, and thus not single. (Some of these will be cohabiting as if married of course, so in ‘highly committed relationships!)
Secondly, it doesn’t tell us how many people who are ‘single and never cohabited or married’ are in committed relationships, and hence not actually single.
Thirdly, it doesn’t tell us how many ‘married’ people are in empty shell marriages, and thus single in a sense.
NB – the above data came from the Labour Force Survey, which gleans its information about relationship status from a series of interview questions – questions which will in no way tell us how many actual single people there are in the U.K. – this particular question is only really only useful for telling us the number of married people or in a formal civil partnership and cannot tell us very much about the relationship status of the non-married/ civil partnership people.
In fairness to LFS, it does go on to ask whether people are ‘cohabiting’, the results for which are shown below…
People ‘not living as a couple’
A second possible way of measuring the number of single people in the country, again taken from ONS Labour Force Survey data, is to look at ‘living arrangements’ – and here we find that approximately 39% of the population are not living as a couple, while 61% are living as a couple.
I’d say this is a more valid way of measuring the number of single people in the country because it includes a clear indication that 61% of the population are either married or cohabiting, rather than just the number of people who are ‘married’ like in the first data set. However, it still does not tell us how many single people there are in the country, because some proportion of people not living as a couple will still be in committed relationships, but the data does not tell us this!
We are thus forced to look elsewhere to find out how many actual single people there are in the country….
Other sources of data about ‘single people’
I guess I’ve got to at least mention Facebook….. According to ‘statistics brain‘, 37% of people report their relationship status as single on Facebook.
However, this data has validity problems because:
I don’t have access to the methodology used, no details are provided.
This probably isn’t from the UK.
According to this New Statesman article, 40% of 20 somethings are reluctant to report themselves as ‘in a relationship’ on Facebook unless its an engagement.
This 2017 Statista survey reports that around 27% of the UK population aged 40 to 70 reported that they were single, not currently in a relationship.
While I’m inclined to intuit that this is a valid figure, unfortunately I’m not in a position to objectively validate the findings because I ain’t prepared to pay the subscription fee to gain the access required to get the information on sampling techniques (if they even exist in any meaningful sense because this was an online survey!)
Having said that, the above data is broadly backed up by this 2014 YouGov Poll which reports that 30% of the UK population are single (although the analysis doesn’t go into any detail about this aspect of the poll, limiting itself to how people who are in relationships feel about each other).
Personally I think this 30% figure sounds about right, given that the numbers of single people in their 20s and 30s will probably be higher than those in the their 40s-70s, you’d expect the later percentage to be slightly higher than the Statista results, so it triangulates nicely.
So…. how many people are single in the UK? About 30%.
Postscript – Fantasy reporting on the geographic distribution of single people
Heads up on click-bait lists like this from The Independent which show you the ‘cities with the most single people in’ – here are the results:
The percentages above are for people who are ‘single and never married’, the problem is that most of these are university towns…. where lots of young people live, most of whom will move on to another city once they’ve graduated, and to my mind to get a realistic picture of how ‘committed to single life’ a city’s population is, you’d need to control for age, and how long they intend to stay in that city. It’s sort or ironic, somehow, that geographical instability (most students only intend to reside in their university town temporarily) skews the figures on how many people are not in a stable relationship (i.e. single).
Then of course, as I mentioned above, many of these people will actually be in committed relationships.
According to the latest police recorded crime figures there has been a significant increase in crime in the last year:
Gun crime has increased by 27%
Knife crime has increased by 26%
Robberies have increased by 25%
Stalking and Harassment have increased by 36%
At first site, what’s interesting about these figures is that they not only demonstrate a radical increase, but this abruptly reverses the recent trend in declining violent crime:
However, these figures may not actually give us a reliable picture of the actual change in violent crime because of ONE simple fact: police forces in England and Wales are facing significant budget cuts, and so there may have been a more concerted effort on the part of the police to detect and record crimes over the last year – if crime can be shown to be going up, then this can be used as evidence to not cut police funding.
Then there’s the possibility that the public may be reporting more crimes – the ability to report online, for example, makes it easier to do so, and where harassment crimes are concerned, this may be due to a wave of recent campaigns such as the Everyday Sexism blog, to raise awareness of the fact that such behaviour is not acceptable.
British Crime Survey, based on accounts by victims, shows that crime is still going down, and this is generally regarded as a much more valid way of measuring the extent of crime in England and Wales than police recorded crime, as the BCS removes the subjectivity-bias of the police in investigating and recording crimes:
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