Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The poor and the poorest, 50 years on: evidence from British Household Expenditure Surveys of the 1950s and 1960s

an article by Ian Gazeley, Hector Gutierrez Rufrancos, Kevin Reynolds and Rebecca Searle (University of Sussex, Brighton, UK) and Andrew Newell (University of Sussex and Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn, Germany) published in Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society) Volume 180 Issue 2 (February 2017)


We re-explore Abel-Smith and Townsend’s landmark study of poverty in early post World War 2 Britain. They found a large increase in poverty between 1953-1954 and 1960, which was a period of relatively strong economic growth.

Our re-examination is a first exploitation of the data extracted from the recent digitization of the Ministry of Labour’s ‘Enquiry into household expenditure’ in 1953–1954.

First we closely replicate their results. We find that Abel-Smith and Townsend’s method generated a greater rise in poverty than other reasonable methods. Using contemporary standard poverty lines, we find that the relative poverty rate grew only a little at most, and the absolute poverty rate fell, between 1953–1954 and 1961, as might be expected in a period of rising real incomes and steady inequality.

We also extend the poverty rate time series of Goodman and Webb back to 1953–1954.

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