How are the data underpinning research and policy around poverty? (spring 2024)

Profile photo of James LockwoodIn this post we highlight some of the ways data in the UK Data Service collection is being used in research, reports and articles we’ve seen over the past few months. 

Our Poverty in Data event is a significant development in the work of the UK Data Service Impact team to show the broad role data is playing in the area of poverty. In this latest post we highlight the impact some of the data available via the UK Data Service is having in research, policy and public conversations around the areas of poverty, deprivation and the cost-of-living crisis. To do this we’ve pulled together some research, reports and articles we’ve noted over the past few months that make use of data available in the collection as well as content from posts on the Data Impact blog. You can also see our summer and autumn summaries on the blog.

Labour Force Survey

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) continues to play a key role in research, policy development and discussion around areas impacting poverty. Employment levels, average earnings and the levels of vacancies can help, alongside other datasets, to give a national view of these important factors that contribute to individual, family and societal financial issues.

The Work Foundation, based in Lancaster University, release a data briefing which made use of LFS looking at insecurity at work and home. This focussed on how over 21% of those who are in severely insecure work were living in privately rented accommodation in 2023. They recommend that bold policy ideas are needed to tackle this issue. Aman Navani, analyst at the Work Foundation, also wrote a piece looking at how the labour market appears to be heading in the wrong direction in terms of unemployment. Aman wrote for our Data Impact blog on the Work Foundation’s Insecure work index in March.

The Trade Union Commission also made use of LFS data to report on the experience of BME workers and home working, and the Resolution Foundation commented on the latest LFS figures, showing how the UK labour market is generating fewer jobs but paying those with a job better.

Households below average income

The government has been running a consultation which closed in April about its new Below Average Resources statistic, which will be based on the Social Metrics Commission’s approach to poverty measurement. The Commission’s measure made significant use of data from the UK Data Service catalogue.

Whilst we await the outcome of this consultation and the development of this statistic, the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) dataset continues to play a key role in understanding poverty.

The latest data was published in March. Child poverty was an area that made headlines, with more the 300,000 children across the UK fell into absolute poverty during the cost of living crisis. Centre for cities, Resolution Foundation and the Trade Union Commission, among many others, commented on the latest data. More recently Torsten Bell, Chief Executive of Resolution Foundation suggested that we can “easily end child poverty in the UK”, whilst Fact Check NI responded to claims made on the BBC about poverty rates in the UK compared to those in Scandinavia.

Other Datasets

The Trade Union Commission made use of yet more datasets available via the UK Data Service when using the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) to highlight how pay packets worth less than 2008 in nearly two-thirds of UK local authorities.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies also used ASHE in their report on the recent trends in public sector pay.

The Resolution Foundation also made use of ASHE to claim that minimum wage is UK’s ‘most successful economic policy in a generation’. We have previously worked with the Living Wage Foundation and the Institute for Employment Studies on case studies related to the “Living hours” accreditation scheme and the impact of the National Living Wage.

Housing and associated costs continue to contribute to a range of financial issues for many across the country. The English Housing Survey plays a vital role in this analysis. In the past few months research has shown that rent increases are still cheaper than moving house; that landlords are selling houses, leaving 2,000 households a month in England facing homelessness; and how more than four in 10 council homes sold under Right to Buy are now owned by private landlords.

Understanding Society has also allowed researchers to look at the role poverty plays in the lives of young people. Researchers from the University of Liverpool found that young adults are taking longer to find work than preceding generations. Another group from the University of Essex showed how  young people living in deprived coastal areas are likely to become unhealthier young adults.

From the UK Data Service Impact channels

The UK Data Service Data Impact event, Poverty in Data, took place across three days in April. Over 200 people attended and engaged with research, data and discussion on this vital topic. You can find out all of the information and find videos of all of our main sessions on our website.

On the Data Impact blog, we have highlighted various pieces of research looking at different areas of poverty. As mentioned above, we had a piece from the Work Foundation looking at labour market insecurity in the UK.

Ricky Kanabar and Paul Gregg, from the University of Bath, discussed their research on home ownership and wealth inequality in Great Britain.

One of our previous Data Impact Fellows, Bozena Wielgoszewska, who is now Research Fellow at the Social Research Institute, University College London, discussed the gender furlough gap. Bozena also took part as a panellist at our ECR workshop as part of Poverty in Data.

Showing the international usage of data made available by the UK Data Service,  Franco Bonomi Bezzo and Anne-Marie Jeannet, from the University of Milan, shared about their research looking at the role voluntary & civic organisations have in deprived communities.

Most recently Nicholas Kofi Adjei, Research Associate at the University of Liverpool, discussed the relationship between family adversities across the early life course and perceived emotional support in adolescence.

About the author

James Lockwood is Research Impact and Engagement Manager at the UK Data Service.

You can find more about the UK Data Service training and events on our website.

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