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One hundred years of poverty and policy

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A new report by LSE researchers, looking at how the causes, consequences and definitions of poverty in Britain have altered during the past 100 years and published this week by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, finds that the low incomes of a substantial minority in Britain still exclude them from the fruits of growing prosperity enjoyed by the majority.  

One Hundred Years of Poverty and Policy by Professor Howard Glennerster|, Professor John Hills|, Professor David Piachaud| of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, and Dr Jo Webb, formerly of the Social Policy Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science, concludes that social deprivation lays down a continuing political challenge that is likely to intensify as the 21st century progresses. 

The report also looks back to the turn of the last century, when Joseph Rowntree, the confectionary manufacturer, was profoundly influenced by a detailed study of poverty carried out by his son, Seebohm, in York.  

It finds that today's 'poverty line' of 60 per cent of median household income is much higher in simple purchasing power terms than the measure devised by Seebohm Rowntree - which was based on the minimal costs of food and housing needed to maintain 'physical efficiency'. But as a measure of poverty relative to what most people are currently earning or can afford, the two measures are surprisingly similar. 


For more information, contact

  • Professor John Hills, LSE, 020 7955 7419
  • Professor David Piachaud, LSE, 020 7955 7369
  • Professor Howard Glennerster, LSE, 020 7852 3560
  • David Utting, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 020 7278 9665


One Hundred Years of Poverty and Policy is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and available from York Publishing Services, 64 Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York YO31 7ZQ. Tel: 01904 430033. Price £8.95 + £2 p&p.

Press cuttings

Associated Press
Low wages main cause of poverty (14 Dec)
The causes of poverty and deprivation have changed over the last century with low incomes excluding a substantial minority of Britons from the chance of prosperity, a leading think-tank said today. Researchers from LSE compared the picture of poverty in 2001-02 with that studied in an 1899 report by Seebohm Rowntree, the son of confectionery manufacturer Joseph. Full link to article can be viewed on IC Newcastle:

Metro, London (14 Dec)
No direct link

14 December 2004