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Understanding the relationship between pensioner poverty and material deprivation

Old ladies on bus
Published: February 2013

Aim

We were commissioned to conduct qualitative research into the situations of older people living in various states of income poverty and material deprivation. This was done to further our understanding of why some pensioners who are below the poverty threshold are not materially deprived and, conversely, why others are materially deprived even though they are not below the poverty threshold.

Findings

The evidence was based on an analysis of ‘push and pull’ factors that:

  • Facilitated greater or more restricted access to goods, services and experiences, shaping levels of deprivation; and
  • Influenced how respondents felt about how materially deprived they were.

Although income had an influence on levels of deprivation, the relationship between different levels of income and access to goods, services and activities was not straightforward. There were also five other non-income related factors that contributed to either ‘pulling up’ or ‘pushing down’ respondents’ material circumstances across four key areas: meeting basic needs, dealing with financial shocks, housing needs and social needs. These were:

  • Area and housing circumstances.
  • Financial and material support. Informal support from family and friends and government support had a positive impact on material circumstances.
  • Health. Poor health ‘pushed down’ material circumstances by imposing additional costs of living and undermining respondents’ ability to live independently. Good health had the opposite effect.
  • Financial management approaches. Approaches used by respondents to meet basic costs and/or dealing with financial shocks helped to limit the restrictions they faced in their material circumstances. These approaches included budgeting, reliance on debt/credit, savings and informal financial support.
  • Attitudes and priorities around living on a low income. This shaped respondents’ levels of material deprivation and their feelings about this in two ways. A) The nature of preferences and priorities for spending had a direct influence on the extent of impact of low income on material deprivation. B) Expectations for living standard in retirement influenced the extent to which respondents felt ‘deprived’.

Methodology

Qualitative face-to-face in-depth interviews with 29 individuals of the target population. 

Read the report