United Kingdom

Young adults in low-income households

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Young adults are much more likely to live in low-income households than older working-age adults: 31% compared to 19%.  This has been the case since at least the mid 1990s.
  • Note that most of the difference is because those aged 16 to 21 are much more likely to live in low-income households than older working-age adults.  By contrast, those aged 22 to 24 are only a bit more likely to live in low-income households than older working-age adults.  See the last graph of the indicator on low income by age group.
  • Unemployed young adults are less likely to be in a low-income household than their older counterparts.  Presumably this is because many are still living with their parents (some of whom will be working).

Why this indicator was originally chosen

As other indicators demonstrate, both unemployment and low pay remain major problems among young adults. It follows that levels of poverty among young adults is also a matter of potential concern.

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the proportion of adults aged 16 to 24 living in households below 60% of median income after deducting housing costs.  The bar is split to show the extent to which adults aged 16 to 24 are at a higher risk than older working-age adults of being in households below that threshold.

The second graph shows how the risks of being in low income vary by work status, with the data shown separately for adults aged 16 to 24 and from 25 to retirement.  The following work statuses are shown: all working (single or couple, with one in full-time work and the other – if applicable – in full-time or part-time work); 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); workless – unemployed (head or spouse unemployed) and workless – economically inactive (includes long-term sick/disabled and lone parents).  The self-employed and workless families aged 60 and over are excluded from the analysis.

The data source for both graphs is Households Below Average Income, based on the Family Resources Survey (FRS).  For 2002/03 onwards, the data relates to the United Kingdom whilst the data for earlier years is for Great Britain (FRS did not cover Northern Ireland until 2002/03).  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 self-employed are included in the first graph but not the second.  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 government survey, designed to be representative of the population as a whole.

Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

None directly relevant.

The numbers

Graph 1

Year Proportions in low-income households
The rate for adults aged 16 to 24 The rate for adults aged 25 to retirement
1994/95 29% 18%
1995/96 27% 19%
1996/97 29% 19%
1997/98 26% 19%
1998/99 26% 18%
1999/00 27% 18%
2000/01 24% 18%
2001/02 25% 18%
2002/03 26% 18%
2003/04 26% 18%
2004/05 25% 17%
2005/0629% 18%
2006/0728% 19%
2007/0828% 19%
2008/0931% 19%

Graph 2

Family work statusProportions in low-income households
The rate for adults aged 16 to 24 The rate for adults aged 25 to retirement
All working8% 4%
Part working 34% 26%
Workless - economically inactive54% 59%
Workless - unemployed56% 82%