Return to main page

How much do you need for a mininum acceptable living standard in Britain today?

A Minimum Income Standard for the United Kingdom is a major ongoing research project producing benchmark minimum standards for different family types. These show how much families need in order to afford to buy goods and services that members of the public, in detailed discussions, decide are needed for a minimum acceptable standard of living.

The initial research programme ran from 2006 to 2008, culminating in a widely-publicised initial report in July 2008. Having overseen the project as an adviser to its funder, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, I helped explain its findings to the press and public, for example in this interview on the BBC's Today Programme. Since October 2008, working at the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) at Loughborough University, where I am now Director, I have been leading the very capable team carrying out this work: Abigail Davis, Yvette Hartfree and Matt  Padley with administrative support from Nicky Lomax, and Noel Smith, now at University Campus Suffolk, one of the original researchers, still closely involved.

Our latest report updating the standard for 2012 shows a high level of continuity in the definition of a minimum despite changing economic times, suggesting that there may be a ratchet effect whereby the minimum you need to participate in society might rise with prosperity but be slower to fall when we get poorer.

This method is now being widely used. It has been applied in Ireland, Japan, Guernsey and (in progress) in France and Portugal. It's been used to look at needs in rural England, and in 2012 became the subject of research in remote rural Scotland..

Key findings

  • People in Britain agree that an acceptable living standard requires more than just basics such as food and shelter. 
  • Most people on basic benefits have too little to reach this standard. 
  • Pensioners do have enough, as long as they claim what they are enttitled to.
  • The minimum wage is rarely enough to reach an acceptable standard of living.
  • People living below the arbitrary "poverty line" of  60% median income are almost all below the minimum income standard
Calculate your own minimum income              Further information

Theme: Income and poverty