Background and aims of the 1999 PSE survey

The current survey was an update of two Breadline Britain surveys carried out by MORI in 1983 and 1990.  It has been undertaken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on behalf of a consortium of experts in this field from the Universities of Bristol, Heriot Watt, Loughborough and York.  It was supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the UK’s largest independent social research and development charity.

The 1999 Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey of Britain used three sets of data:

1. The 1998-9 General Household Survey (GHS) provided data on the socio-economic circumstances of the respondents, including their incomes.

2. The June 1999 ONS Omnibus Survey included questions designed to establish from a sample of the general population what items and activities they consider to be necessities.

3. A follow-up survey of a sub-sample of respondents (weighted towards those with lower incomes) to the 1998-9 GHS were interviewed in September/October 1999 to establish how many lacked items identified as necessities and also to collect other information on poverty and social exclusion.

Why a follow-up to the GHS?

Following up respondents to the 1998/9 GHS offered a cost-effective strategy as much of the relevant data, such as detailed information on household composition, incomes, pensions and consumer durables was collected during the GHS interview. This meant that the current survey could concentrate on issues which were not covered by the GHS such as views of poverty, participation in social networks, views of the neighbourhood. One of the aims of the survey was to explore movement in and out of poverty. Following up GHS respondents at intervals varying from 6-18 months allows a measure of changes over time. Respondents were asked to update some information such as changes to the household composition and general changes in income since their last interview. Respondents were not asked to give details about their income in the form of the GHS questions. The sample includes people with high and low income levels, although the sample was weighted towards the lower income groups. A larger number of low income households were required to be able to measure the different concepts of poverty used in this survey.

Aims of the survey

·                 To update the Breadline Britain Surveys.

·                 To estimate the size of groups of households in different circumstances.

·                 To explore movement in and out of poverty.

·                To look at age and gender differences in experiences of and responses to                poverty.

 The division of the population into the ‘poor’ and the ‘not poor’ takes no account of the fact that some groups move in and out of poverty.  People’s circumstances change over time and this will affect people’s status as ‘poor’ or ‘not poor’.  For example, loss of a wage earner in a household (by death or redundancy) may mean that a household who had never been poor in the past is currently poor.

Benefits of the Survey

This survey is concerned with the experience of people living in Britain, but the questionnaire will in time also be used in Europe and World-wide. Every country in the UN is committed to reducing poverty over the next 5-10 years. In Britain the Government is committed to produce an annual poverty audit. This survey provides information that will be used to form policies to reduce poverty in Britain.

 Seebohm Rowntree’s work on poverty first questioned long-held perceptions of poverty that it was only due to laziness that a person was poor (i.e. the poor could work their way out of poverty if they really wanted to).  The Welfare State was developed by Beveridge on the basis of the findings of work by Rowntree in 1936. The basic tenets of the Welfare State are continued in the Income Support structure today.

This survey asked about children’s experience of poverty. The questions asked about children were used in a survey called ‘Small Fortunes’. The Small Fortunes survey found that children were poorer than was first thought. These findings were used to inform changes in benefits for children (for example Income Support have been increased in real terms).

Maintained by: Eldin Fahmy
Last updated: 06/03/02