Low income by family type

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • All the statistics in this indicator relate to numbers of individuals rather than to either numbers of families or number of households. 1
  • Almost half of all people in lone parent families are in low income.  This is two-and-a half times the rate for couples with children.
  • The comparable rates for people in all other family types are around 20%.  The one exception is working-age couples without dependent children, where the rate is 10%.

Definitions and data sources

The graph shows the risks of being in low income for people in different family types.  Note that a couple (and therefore both of its adults) is classified as a pensioner couple if either of the adults is of pensionable age.

The data source is Households Below Average Income, based on the Family Resources Survey (FRS).  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.  The averaging over three-year periods has been done to improve statistical reliability.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The FRS is a well-established annual government survey designed to be representative of the population as a whole and the Northern Ireland sample has been boosted to improve sample sizes.  However, the Northern Irish sample is a recent addition to the survey and is yet to be fully quality assured by the Department of Work and Pensions.

1. It is very easy to misinterpret the statistics in this indicator.  For example, the statement ‘almost half of all people in lone parent families are in low income‘ is not the same as the statement ‘almost half of all lone parents are in low income‘: the former is counting individuals   – children as well as adults – whereas the latter is counting families and the two statistics might well be rather different if, for example, larger lone parent families are more likely to be in low income than smaller lone parent families.