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Poverty, wealth and place in Britain, 1968 to 2005

Understanding the Transformation of the Prospects of Places

Methods and Data

The full report describes in detail how we carried out this research.

In brief, the study makes use of existing large-scale datasets - primarily the census - to calculate the proportion of households in each of five groups:

1. Core Poor
households who experience poverty in all three dimensions: they are income poor and they are materially deprived and they are subjectively poor. Core Poor households are a subset of Breadline Poor households.
2. Breadline Poor
households living below a relative poverty line, and, as such, are excluded from participating in the norms of society
3. Non-poor, non-wealthy*
households that are neither (Breadline) poor nor (Asset) wealthy
4. Asset Wealthy
households who are relatively wealthy, estimated using the relationship between housing wealth and the contemporary inheritance tax threshold
5. Exclusive Wealthy
households with so much wealth that they can exclude themselves from the norms of society. Exclusive Wealthy households are a subset of Asset Wealthy households.

* The non-poor, non-wealthy group is defined by default - they are those households in the middle, that are better off than the Breadline Poor, but worse off than the Asset Wealthy. We therefore label this group 'non-poor, non-wealthy households'.

The percentage of households in each category has been calculated, where possible, at the beginning of each of the last four decades - around 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000. Since census geography has changed at each of these time periods, the poverty and wealth figures have been calculated for census tracts*, a system of neighbourhood geographies, recently constructed by researchers at the University of Sheffield, which allow the comparison of census data over time (1971-2001), with Britain divided into 1,282 areas with similar population size. These tracts are used as the basis for areal and temporal comparisons, to assess change in the geography of poverty and wealth over time.

Along with the censuses of 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001, these analyses also used contemporary household poverty surveys, the Family Expenditure Survey and measures of household wealth based on property values.

Method details

Two working papers are available describing the process of calculating the poverty measures for 1970 and 1980:

Working Paper 1: The Townsend Poverty Survey and the 1971 Census (PDF 578k)
Working Paper 2: The 1983 LWT/MORI Survey and the 1981 Census (PDF 606k)

These measures were based on extension of the methods of the Breadline Britain poverty index measures for 1990 and 2000, which have been previously described: Gordon, D. and Forrest, R. (1995) People and Places 2. Bristol: University of Bristol, School for Advanced Urban Studies; Gordon, D. (1995) Census based deprivation indices: their weighting and validation, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 49 Suppl 2, S39-S44; Appendix B in Shaw, M. et al. (1999) The widening gap. Bristol: The Policy Press. Details of the methods used to calculate the Asset Wealth and Exclusive Wealth measures are given in Appendix 1 of the full report.

Patterns since 2001

Only the census, held every ten years, can give us the depth and detail of data to understand the detailed geography of poverty and wealth consistently over time. Since the last census was in 2001, the study also includes analysis of additional poverty- and wealth-related data from 2000 to 2005, to assess progress in the first decade of the new millennium.

* For information on census tracts, see the downloads page.

Next page: Results


Project pages

  1. Project home
  2. Background - Poverty and wealth in Britain
  3. Methods and Data - How we did this research
  4. Results - What we found
  5. Conclusions - What this all means
  6. Download reports and data - Download the project report and datasets, find poverty and wealth information for your area, and view maps of the measures