Low income by age group

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • The proportion of pensioners living in low-income households (using the low-income threshold of the 60% of median income after deducting housing costs) has been falling, from an average of 29% of all pensioners in the years 1996/97 to 1998/99 to an average of 14% in the years 2006/07 to 2008/09.
  • Pensioners are now much less likely to be living in low-income households than non-pensioners.
  • The proportion of children living in low-income households has also been falling, albeit at a slower rate, from an average of 32% of all children in the years 1996/97 to 1998/99 to an average of 25% in the years 2006/07 to 2008/09.
  • Nevertheless, children remain much more likely to live in low-income households than either working-age adults or pensioners.
  • In contrast, the proportion of working-age adults without dependent children living in low-income households is – at 18% – similar to a decade ago.  The proportion in low income is much higher for single adults (25%) than for couples (11%).
  • Two-fifths of all people in low income are of working age and without dependent children.
  • See the UK indicator on low income by age group.

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the risk of a person being in a low-income household, with the data shown separately for children, pensioners and working-age adults without dependent children.  For presentational reasons, the figures for working-age adults with dependent children (which broadly follow the same trends as for children themselves) are not shown.

The second graph shows a breakdown of the people in low-income households according to whether they are children, pensioners, working-age adults with dependent children or working-age adults without dependent children.  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

The data source for both graphs is Households Below Average Income, based on the Family Resources Survey (FRS).  A child is defined as an individual who is either under 16 or is an unmarried 16- to 18-year-old on a course up to and including A level standard (or Highers in Scotland).  Income is disposable household income after deducting housing costs and the low-income threshold is the same as that used elsewhere, namely 60% of British contemporary median household income.  All the data is equivalised (adjusted) to account for differences in household size and composition.  The self-employed are included in the statistics.  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.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: high.  The FRS is a well-established annual government survey, designed to be representative of the population as a whole.  Note, however, that the coverage of the surveys prior to 2001/2 did not extend beyond the Caledonian Canal.

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