Two people walking on a street Two people walking on a street

Key areas: Standard of living

Standard of living

In order to flourish in life, every person needs a basic level of financial security and decent housing. Yet some groups are far more likely than others to experience poverty, to lack access to financial products, or to live in substandard housing.

The evidence shows stark disparities in relation to gender, disability, and ethnicity which in many cases result from the inequalities in education and employment outcomes described elsewhere in this Report.

Women are much more likely to be low paid than men throughout their working lives. This often translates into lower income in retirement as well. Women, particularly those who have been lone parents, are particularly susceptible to poverty in later life, as they are less likely to have been able to build up savings and pensions. Households headed by women are also more likely to live in overcrowded or substandard homes than those headed by men.

Disabled households tend to have less overall household income than those without, and working disabled people are more likely than average to be on low hourly pay. The fact that disabled people often spend periods of their working-age lives out of work increases their risk of poverty in later life. Disabled people are also less likely than average to have a bank account, and people who have learning disabilities are much less likely to have one. These worse outcomes are compounded by the extra costs associated with living with some impairments – the proportion of disabled pensioner households with low incomes is not significantly higher than that of non-disabled pensioner households, partly due to their receipt of disability benefits, but the standard threshold of low income makes no allowance for any extra costs of disability.

Meanwhile, some ethnic minority groups experience much worse outcomes than average – and even worse than might be expected, taking into account differences in age structures, educational attainments and other factors. People of Indian origin are more likely to have low household income than White people, despite the fact that a low proportion of Indian people earn low hourly wages, and they have higher than average educational attainments. More than half of Pakistani and Bangladeshi adults live in poverty and are also much less likely than average to a have a current account or home contents insurance. Just over a quarter of Pakistani and Bangladeshi adults have formal savings, compared to two-thirds of White people. Asian and Black households are also several times more likely than White British households to live in overcrowded or substandard homes.

Finally this chapter highlights the gap between society’s richest and poorest. The poorest 10% possess average wealth one hundredth the average wealth of the richest 10%. People on lower incomes are more likely to live in overcrowded housing, and those living in social housing, in particular, are more likely to say that their local neighbourhood has problems with crime.

Significant findings and headline data

Significant findings

The analysis of material deprivation and living standards in Britain today has revealed a mixed picture. Income poverty remains persistent for some groups such as some groups of women, ethnic minority groups and families with disabled members.

However, in contrast there has been growing material wealth and growing home ownership alongside a persistent gap between richest and poorest.

Headline data

  • The total net household wealth of the top 10% is £853,000, almost 100 times higher than the net wealth of the poorest 10%, which is £8,800 or below.
  • One person in 5 lives in households with less than 60% median income (after housing costs) this rises to nearly 1 in 3 for Bangladeshi -headed households.
  • Data indicates that two-thirds of Bangladeshi and Pakistani people lack savings and half of pensioners living in Bangladeshi or Pakistani-headed households live below the poverty line (compared to around a sixth of the general population).
  • Nearly three-quarters of Bangladeshi children, and half of Black African children in Britain grow up in poverty.
  • Over 1 in 4 of families with disabled people live below 60% median income: 29% of those with a disabled adult, 28% of those with a disabled child and 38% of those with both.
  • 60% of women reaching state pension age in 2008 were entitled to less than the full basic state pension, compared to 10% of men.

Significant findings

The experience of poverty is closely related to poorer outcomes in terms of living conditions, overcrowding, crime in the neighbourhood and destitution – leading to poor health and low life expectancy.

Headline data

  • Only 1 in 40 households today are defined as overcrowded – however female-headed households are four times as likely as average to be overcrowded. A quarter of Bangladeshi households are overcrowded.
  • One in 10 people report living in polluted and grimy neighbourhoods but reports of crime, violence and vandalism are higher for many groups, including women householders with children and many ethnic minority groups.
  • Ethnic minority and disabled people, and religious minority groups are over-represented in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England.
  • Asylum seekers are much more likely to experience destitution (lacking access to shelter, warmth and food) than other groups, including children and in dispersal areas such as Yorkshire and Humberside.

Last updated: 25 May 2016