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The Research

Amidst a cost-of-living crisis, this project explores the changing extent, nature and significance of deep poverty in the UK. Through a mixed-methods longitudinal design, the research will consider the varying ways in which deep poverty is distinctive from the more general challenges of living on a low income. A common assumption implicit across the social sciences is that the welfare, agency and civic participation of those below the poverty line is positively related to income in a linear fashion. However, this is rarely evidenced or systematically investigated. This seems particularly problematic given that there are known ceiling effects when it comes to the impact of increasing income on well-being at the top of the income distribution.

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It is possible that there are ‘cliff edges’ when it comes to the experiences and outcomes of those experiencing particularly acute forms of financial hardship over time. When incomes fall below a certain point, do key opportunities or securities dissolve away whilst others remain? Do the effects of deep poverty become compounding? Is the capacity to bounce back and transition out of poverty compromised as a result of experiencing deep poverty? Answers to these questions have potentially wide-ranging implications for how we come to:

  1. theorise poverty

  2. understand its dynamics

  3. rationalise interventions, and

  4. evaluate policy outcomes.

This project will generate new analysis across each of these domains, offering empirical, theoretical and policy lessons on deep poverty and low-income dynamics more generally. To do so, this project is split into two phases:


  • Phase 1 involves secondary quantitative data analysis of the Family Resources Survey and Understanding Society to explore the profile, causes and effects of deep poverty over time.

  • Phase 2 examines the social biographies and dynamics of life on an extremely low income through in-depth qualitative longitudinal, ethnographic research. 


The focus and direction of the research is informed by a project steering group made up of experts by experience, practitioners, campaigners and academics.

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Find out more

For more information on the project  sign up to the mailing list.

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