Dragged deeper: How families are falling further and further below the poverty line | CPAG

Dragged deeper: How families are falling further and further below the poverty line

Post date: 
13 February 2020
Written by: 

Tom Lee

Senior policy analyst

Lots of attention is given to the number of children in poverty but as a society we do not only care about the rate of poverty but also the depth of poverty. If everyone in poverty is very close to the poverty line we should perhaps worry less than when millions of people are substantially below the poverty line. A good way to measure the depth of poverty is the median poverty gap, which indicates how far below the poverty line the average family in poverty is.

Our new report finds that:

  • Families already living under the poverty line have been pushed deeper into poverty since 2012.
  • The number of children in poverty in households where all the parent(s) work full time - be they single or couple-parents - has doubled from 200,000 in 2012/13 to 400,000 in 2017/18.
  • The analysis of DWP data shows the average ‘poverty gap’ - ie, how far below the poverty line poor families are living - jumped by 30% between 2012/13 and 2017/18 even after controlling for inflation. That means that after housing costs (AHC) are taken into account, poor families are now on average £73 a week (28%) below the poverty line, up from £56 in 2012/13.
  • The poverty gap is consistently higher for couple-households compared to lone parents, although since 2013 the poverty gap for lone parents has risen by 36%, reducing the difference considerably. This is unsurprising perhaps, given that since 2013 benefits have been cut in real terms causing particularly heavy losses for lone parents who derive a higher share of their income from benefits.

  • The poverty gap (AHC) grew between 2012/13 to 2017/18 for all family types who are poor – for couples where both partners work, where one partner and neither partner works and for lone parents whether they work or not.

While there is a tendency for the poverty gap, at any one time, to shrink when the poverty rate grows (because when people have just moved into poverty they are likely to have incomes relatively close to the poverty line), since 2012/13, both the poverty rate and poverty gap (before housing costs and after housing costs) have risen – so over the past five years more children have been pushed into poverty, while those in poverty are further away from escaping it.