Rural England

Working-age adults in low income

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • One in six working-age adults in rural districts live in low-income households. This is noticeably lower than the proportion in urban districts (one in four).
  • 1.8 million working-age adults in low-income households – a quarter of the total – live in rural districts.
  • In rural districts, like in urban districts, the proportion of working-age adults who are in low-income households is slightly higher than a decade ago.

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 district 2006/07 to 2008/09 1996/97 to 1998/99
Below 60% median Below 50% median Below 40% median Below 60% median
'Very rural' districts7 7 7 8
'Mostly rural' districts7 7 7 7
'Part rural' districts7 7 7 7

Definitions and data sources

The graphs

For each type of local authority district, the first graph shows the proportion of working-age adults who are in households with low incomes.  Three low-income thresholds are presented to show the extent and intensity of low income.  These are 60% of UK median household income, 50% of UK median income and 40% of UK median income.  For a discussion on why these thresholds 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 second graph shows the distribution of working-age adults in households with incomes below 60% of UK median household income by type of district.

For each type of local authority district, the third graph shows how the proportion of working-age adults who are in households with low incomes compares with the equivalent proportion in the mid-1990s.  For the latest three years, the low-income threshold used is the same as that in the first graph, namely 60% of contemporary UK median household income.  For the mid-1990s, the threshold is 60% of contemporary Great Britain median household income, as data was not available for Northern Ireland.  Note that the rural/urban allocations of districts for the earliest three years is slightly different than that for the latest three years as a) some districts were merged in and b) the Government made adjustments to the allocations of a few districts.

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 last three years.

The numbers

Graphs 1 and 2

Type of district Below 60% median Below 50% median Below 40% median
Rates Numbers Rates Numbers Rates Numbers
'Very rural' districts17% 510,000 13% 370,000 9% 250,000
'Mostly rural' districts16% 650,000 12% 470,000 8% 300,000
'Part rural' districts17% 700,000 12% 490,000 8% 330,000
Urban districts24% 4,500,000 18% 3,380,000 12% 2,250,000

Graph 3

Type of district1996/97 to 1998/992006/07 to 2008/09
'Very rural' districts17% 17%
'Mostly rural' districts15% 16%
'Part rural' districts16% 17%
Urban districts22% 24%