Key points

  • All the statistics below relate to those aged 25 to retirement.
  • Around a third of all disabled adults aged 25 to retirement are living in low-income households.  This is twice the rate of that for non-disabled adults, as it has been throughout the last decade.
  • While little significance can be attached to year-to-year movements, the low-income rate for disabled working-age adults is similar to a decade ago, but somewhat higher than in the mid 1990s.
  • A disabled adult’s risk of being in low income is much greater than that of a non-disabled adult for all family types, by at least 10 percentage points in each case.  Except for lone parents (where the non-disabled rate is already very high), this means a roughly doubled risk for a disabled adult.
  • The main reason that disabled working-age adults are more likely to be in low-income households is because they are less likely to be in work (see the indicator on work and disability) rather than because they are more likely to be in low income if not in work .  This is illustrated by the fact that disabled adults in workless families are actually somewhat less likely to be in low income than their non-disabled counterparts.
  • The proportion of economically inactive working-age adults who are in relative low income is higher in the UK than in any other EU country.  Many of these people will be disabled.

Why this indicator was originally chosen

As other indicators demonstrate, lack of paid work is a major problem for working-age adults with a disability.  It follows that levels of poverty among such adults is also a matter of potential concern.

Definitions and data sources

The first three graphs relate to adults aged 25 to retirement rather than all working-age adults.  This is because the high prevalence of low income among younger adults combined with the low prevalence of disability in that age group arguably distorts, and certainly changes, the comparison between disabled and non-disabled people. 1

The first graph shows the proportion of adults aged 25 to retirement living in low-income households, with the data shown separately for disabled and non-disabled adults.

The second graph shows how the risks of being in low income vary by work status, with the data shown separately for disabled and non-disabled working-age adults aged 25 to retirement.  The following work statuses are shown: all working (single or couple, with one in full-time work and the other – if applicable – in full-time or part-time work); part working (couples where one is working and the other is not plus singles or couples where no one is working full-time but one or more are working part-time); and none working.

The third graph shows how the risks of being in low income vary by family type, with the data shown separately for disabled and non-disabled adults aged 25 to retirement.

The data source for the first three graphs is Households Below Average Income, based on the Family Resources Survey (FRS).  For 2002/03 onwards, the data relates to the United Kingdom whilst the data for earlier years is for Great Britain (FRS did not cover Northern Ireland until 2002/03).  Income is disposable household income after deducting housing costs and the low-income threshold is the same as that used elsewhere, namely 60% of contemporary median household income.  All the data is equivalised (adjusted) to account for differences in household size and composition.  Note that in 2007 DWP made some technical changes to how it adjusted household income for household composition (including retrospective changes) and, as a result, the data is slightly different than previously published figures.

Where the household contains two adults, one disabled but the other not, and one in the 25 to retirement age group but the other not, it is not possible to tell from the data which of the two adults is disabled.  In such cases, the assumption has been made that half of the disabled adults are in the 25 to retirement age group.

The self-employed are included in the first and third graphs but not the second.  Households where one person is of working age and the other is of pensionable age are similarly included in the first and third graphs but not the second.

The fourth graph shows the proportions of adults who are inactive but not retired in each EU country with an equivalised household income that was less than 60% of the contemporary median for their country.  Many of these people will be disabled.  The EU average shown is the average weighted by population.

The data for the fourth graph is from the Eurostat indicators website and is the average for the latest three years.  Note that this data is not directly comparable with the low income statistics in the other graphs: it comes from a different source (i.e. not Households Below Average Income) and is before, rather than after, deducting housing costs.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: high.  The FRS is a well-established government survey, designed to be representative of the population as a whole.

External links

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

None directly relevant.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Proportions in low-income households
The rate for disabled adults aged 25 to retirement The rate for non-disabled adults aged 25 to retirement
1994/95 27% 17%
1995/96 28% 17%
1996/97 29% 18%
1997/98 29% 17%
1998/99 30% 16%
1999/00 32% 16%
2000/01 31% 16%
2001/02 33% 15%
2002/03 31% 16%
2003/04 30% 16%
2004/05 31% 15%
2005/0630% 16%
2006/0732% 16%
2007/0834% 17%
2008/0932% 17%

Graph 2

Family work status Proportions in low-income households
The rate for disabled adults aged 25 to retirement The rate for non-disabled adults aged 25 to retirement
In all-working families5% 4%
In part-working families22% 27%
In workless families56% 70%

Graph 3

Family type Proportions in low-income households
The rate for disabled adults aged 25 to retirement The rate for non-disabled adults aged 25 to retirement
In couples without dependent children 21% 10%
In couples with dependent children 33% 19%
Singles without dependent children 42% 19%
Singles with dependent children 53% 43%

Graph 4

Figures are as shown in the graph.

1. The rate of low income for disabled adults is the same for both age groups (25 to retirement and all working age).  However, the rate for non-disabled adults is around 2 percentage points higher for the ‘all working age’ group than for the ’25 to retirement’ group.