Rural England

Polarisation by housing tenure

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Almost half of all people in social housing in rural districts are in low income.  This compares to around one in seven of those in other tenures.
  • In two-thirds of households in social housing in rural districts, the head of the household is not in paid work.  This compares with a third of households in other tenures.
  • In both cases, the patterns are similar for both rural and urban districts.
  • See the UK indicator on polarisation by housing tenure.

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.

Graph 1

Type of districtProportion of people in low-income households
Social rentersOther households
'Very rural' districts9 8
'Mostly rural' districts8 8
'Part rural' districts9 7

Graph 2

Type of small areaProportion of households where the household reference person is not in paid work
Social rentersOther households
Hamlets and isolated dwellings9 11
Villages10 11
Small towns and fringe11 11

Definitions and data sources

The graphs

For each type of local authority district, the first graph shows the proportion of people in low-income households for people in social housing compared to people in other housing tenures.  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.

The second graph shows the proportion of households where the ‘household reference person’ (the person with the highest income in the household 1) is not in paid work, with the data shown separately for households who are social renting and households in other housing tenures.

Level of the data

First graph: 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.

Second graph: Small area urban/rural classifications using the government’s 2004 classification system for small areas.  Rural areas are those classified as ‘small town and fringe’, ‘village’ and ‘hamlet and isolated dwellings’.


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

Second graph: the household dataset from the English Housing Survey, DCLG.  Note that the data is for the latest year only as the rural/urban classifications are not available for previous years.  In this context, also note that the sample sizes for the three types of rural area are very small and thus there is substantial uncertainty about their precise proportions.

The numbers

Graph 1

Type of district Proportion of people in low-income households
Social renters Other households
'Very rural' districts44% 16%
'Mostly rural' districts41% 15%
'Part rural' districts45% 14%
Urban districts50% 20%

Graph 2

Type of small areaProportion of households where the household reference person is not in paid work
Social renters Other households
Hamlets and isolated dwellings58% 36%
Villages65% 36%
Small towns and fringe69% 37%
Urban65% 34%

1. More specifically, the household reference person is the householder, i.e. the person who: a) owns the household accommodation, or b) is legally responsible for the rent of the accommodation, or c) has the household accommodation as an emolument or perquisite, or d) has the household accommodation by virtue of some relationship to the owner who is not a member of the household.  If there are joint householders the household reference person will be the one with the highest income.  If their income is the same, then the eldest householder is taken.