Rural England

Low income by work status

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • For any particular family work status, the risk of a working-age adult being in low income is broadly similar in both rural and urban districts.  Families with full-time workers are at low risk of low income, those with part-time work or self-employed are at medium risk, while those in workless families are at high risk of low income.
  • In the more rural districts (‘very rural’ and ‘mostly rural’ in the graph), around two-thirds of working-age people in low-income households live in families where someone works and only a third live in workless families.  These proportions are rather different from those in urban districts where, in particular, half of all working-age people in low-income households live in workless families.
  • See the UK indicator on low income by work status.

Rural/urban ratios (urban = 10)

On most poverty and social exclusion indicators, rural areas have ‘better scores’ than urban areas. The purpose of the table below is to differentiate between those subjects where rural areas are ‘a bit better’ and those where rural areas are ‘a lot better’. It does so by presenting the rural statistics for the indicator as a proportion of the urban statistics. So, for example, a rural ‘score’ of 6 in the table below means that the rural statistic is around 60% of its urban equivalent.

Type of districtAll workingSelf-employed Part working Workless
'Very rural' districts10 11 7 9
'Mostly rural' districts9 10 7 9
'Part rural' districts9 9 8 9

Definitions and data sources

The graphs

In all the graphs, ‘pensioner families’ (i.e. those where at least one of the adults is of pensionable age) are excluded from the analysis.

For each type of local authority district, the first graph shows the proportion of working-age adults who are in households with low incomes, with the data shown separately by family work status.

The low-income threshold used is 60% of UK median household income.  For a discussion on why this threshold has been used, and possible alternative thresholds, see the page on choices of thresholds.  Income is net disposable household income, after deducting housing costs.  All the data is equivalised (adjusted) to account for differences in household size and composition.

The work statuses shown are all working (single or couple, with one in full-time work and the other – if applicable – in full-time or part-time work); self-employed (single or couple, where at least one is self-employed); 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 workless (single or couple where no one is working).

The term ‘family’ is used to cover an adult and their spouse (if applicable) whereas the term ‘household’ is used to cover everyone living in a dwelling.  So, a young adult living with their parents would count as one ‘household’ but two ‘families’.  In analysing the rates of low income by work status, the work status is analysed by family whereas the income is analysed by household.  For a more detailed discussion of this issue, see the page on households, families and benefit units.

For each type of local authority district, the second graph shows the distribution of working-age people in low-income households by family work status.

Level of the data

Lower tier local authorities (districts), as classified by the DEFRA 2009 classification system.  Both the DEFRA classification rules and their results by local authority can be found on the page on rural/urban classification systems.


Households Below Average Income, DWP.  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

The numbers

Graphs 1

Type of district


All working Self-employed Part working Workless
Rates Numbers Rates Numbers Rates Numbers Rates Numbers
'Very rural' districts 5% 80,000 25% 100,000 23% 140,000 54% 150,000
'Mostly rural' districts 5% 100,000 24% 100,000 21% 180,000 54% 220,000
'Part rural' districts 5% 100,000 20% 90,000 25% 210,000 54% 250,000
Urban districts 5% 490,000 24% 420,000 32% 1,310,000 63% 2,080,000

Graph 2

Type of district All working Self-employed Part working Workless Total
'Very rural' districts 17% 21% 30% 33% 100%
'Mostly rural' districts 17% 18% 29% 36% 100%
'Part rural' districts 16% 14% 32% 38% 100%
Urban districts 11% 10% 30% 48% 100%