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Poverty in perspective

Researchers: Claudia Wood
Published: April 2012


We created a new model by which to understand multi-dimensional poverty. A set of 20 poverty indicators were applied to those with incomes below 70% of the median in a large household panel study (Understanding Society). The combinations of indicators that clustered most frequently together were identified and labelled. The resulting poverty typology demonstrates the different lived experiences of people living on low income.


Fifteen distinct types of poverty within the low-income population were identified, five in each of three cohorts:

  • households with children
  • households without children
  • pensioner households

Low-income households with children sub-divide into five types of family:

  • ‘Grafters’ (9%): families that are likely to be homeowners, have high levels of qualifications and employment and do not lack material goods. Quite likely to have recently been made unemployed or self-employed.
  • ‘Full house families‘ (6%): contain multiple adults and young children so homes are overcrowded. Are able to heat their homes and are not behind with bills.
  • ‘Pressured parents’ (6%): are extremely deprived on lifestyle as well as material measures. They tend to have poor physical and mental health, low skills and low rates of employment.
  • ‘Vulnerable mothers’ (5%): families that are headed mostly by young, single mothers. They lack consumer durables, are behind on bills and have a very limited work history in poorly paid jobs. Are more likely to be physically and mentally unwell.
  • ‘Managing mothers’ (2%): families headed by slightly older mums. They lack some consumer durables but are generally not deprived. If unemployed, it’s seen as temporary.

Policy implications

Different poverty types require different approaches–income redistribution alone is likely to be insufficient. Recommendations are made in the report about how each poverty type can be helped.


  • Selection of poverty indicators via stakeholder workshops
  • Analysis of Understanding Society dataset 
  • Development of typologies
  • Two-hour long follow-up face-to-face interviews with households in the different poverty types
  • Testing of validity of the types at local level.

Study website

Methodology video

Poverty in perspective podcast

Read the report