Journal papers

The PSE UK research has resulted in the publication of numerous journal papers examining in detail a wide range of aspects of the research findings. In particular there have been two themed journal issues:

And a themed section in Social Policy and Society on Comparative Perspectives on Poverty and Inequality: Japan and the United Kingdom.

Details of the papers in these themed issues and of other papers published in peer-reviewed and other specialist journals are listed below. Note while links are given where available that some of these papers require registration to access.

Academic journals

Critical Social Policy

Themed Issue: Challenging UK Poverty Policy Discourse

February 2016; 36 (1), Sage journals
Papers covered:
Policies and discourses of poverty during a time of recession and austerity
Christina Pantazis, University of Bristol, England
This article introduces this themed issue which challenges government policies and discourses using evidence from the UK 2012 Poverty and Social Exclusion Study. Policies and discourses prioritising the role of individual deficiencies and highlighting the structural problems of the welfare state in poverty causation are nothing new. However, they reemerged vigorously in the UK following the 2007–8 global financial crisis and ensuing economic recession. The articles forming this themed issue seek to challenge in different ways this prevailing discourse. This introductory article draws upon Bacchi’s ‘what is the problem represented to be’ (‘WPR’) approach to examine the ways in which poverty was problematised by the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Coalition government (2010–15). It argues that this problematisation silenced structural processes associated with the government’s commitment to neo-liberalism, resulting in devastating, socially harmful consequences.
Critical Social Policy February 2016 36: 3-20, first published on December 4, 2015doi:10.1177/0261018315620377
Navigating the stigmatised identities of poverty in austere times: Resisting and responding to narratives of personal failure
Simon Pemberton, University of Birmingham, England; Eldin Fahmy, Eileen Sutton and Karen Bell, University of Bristol, England
Behavioural explanations of poverty and disadvantage have figured heavily in political rhetoric in the era of austerity, as a means to understand trajectories into poverty and subsequent relationships between benefit claimants and the state. These discourses are not restricted to political debate, as previous studies demonstrate they impact upon public consciousness and structure the ways that the general public think about poverty, as well as shaping the ways in which people living on low incomes are treated. Drawing upon the testimonies of 62 people in England and Scotland experiencing poverty, this article seeks to understand our participants’ responses to these discourses, in particular: how these behavioural explanations impact upon their understanding of their own situations, as well as their self perceptions; how these discourses shape their relationships with others, in terms of their experience of disrespect; and how participants seek to dissociate themselves from their stigmatising implications.
Critical Social Policy February 2016 36: 21-37, first published on September 15, 2015 doi:10.1177/0261018315601799
Child poverty in the UK: Measures, prevalence and intra-household sharing
Gill Main, University of Leeds, England; Jonathan Bradshaw, University of York, England
There is cross-party agreement on the urgency of addressing child poverty in the UK, but less consensus on how to define and measure it, and understand its causes and effects. The Conservative/Liberal Coalition government’s policy and rhetoric favoured individual explanations for poverty, portraying poor parents as making bad spending decisions, and transmitting their attitudes and behaviours on to their children. This article draws on the 2012 UK Poverty and Social Exclusion survey (PSE2012) to examine how far the realities of life for poor children match these explanations. Analysis covers four strands: the prevalence of child poverty; the demographics of poor children; the experiences of poor children; and how parents in poverty allocate household resources. Little evidence is found to support this ‘culture of poverty’ theory, and parents who are themselves in poverty are found to engage in a range of behaviours suggesting they sacrifice personal necessities to provide for children.
Critical Social Policy February 2016 36: 38-61, first published on December 7, 2015 doi:10.1177/0261018315602627
The parenting and economising practices of lone parents: Policy and evidence
Esther Dermott, University of Bristol, England; Marco Pomati, Cardiff University, Wales
UK governments have historically viewed lone parents as a political and social problem. This article argues that present-day political discourse increasingly positions lone parents as deficient parents, suggesting that they are more likely to fail to engage with good parenting practices than parents in couple households and may lack the resource management skills of successful families. We critique claims of an association between poor parenting and lone parenthood status using data from the UK Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) 2012 survey. We find negligible differences in the parenting behaviours of those living in lone and couple households, and lone parents (who are mainly mothers) actually cut back on their own expenditure to a greater extent than other parents in order to provide for children. These findings undermine the viability of links made between ‘poor’ parenting and family living arrangements; such claims are grounded in erroneous individualised accounts of disadvantage.
Critical Social Policy February 2016 36: 62-81, first published on August 25, 2015doi:10.1177/0261018315602198
Exclusionary employment in Britain’s broken labour market
Nick Bailey, University of Glasgow, Scotland
There is growing evidence of the problematic nature of the UK’s ‘flexible labour market’ with rising levels of in-work poverty and insecurity. Yet successive governments have stressed that paid work is the route to inclusion, focussing attention on the divide between employed and unemployed. Past efforts to measure social exclusion have tended to make the same distinction. The aim of this article is to apply Levitas et al.’s (2007) framework to assess levels of exclusionary employment, i.e. exclusion arising directly from an individual’s labour market situation. Using data from the Poverty and Social Exclusion UK survey, results show that one in three adults in paid work is in poverty, or in insecure or poor quality employment. One third of this group have not seen any progression in their labour market situation in the last five years. The policy focus needs to shift from ‘Broken Britain’ to Britain’s broken labour market.
Critical Social Policy February 2016 36: 82-103, first published on September 1, 2015 doi:10.1177/0261018315601800
Risking peace in the ‘war against the poor’? Social exclusion and the legacies of the Northern Ireland conflict
MIke Tomlinson, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Discourses around poverty, dependency and austerity take a particular form regarding Northern Ireland which is seen as ripe for economic ‘rebalancing’ and public sector reduction. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 is pivotal in that it provides the muscle for disciplining claimants for a low-waged, flexible labour market. But the Northern Ireland Assembly has not passed the Act or agreed a budget and the return of Direct Rule beckons as a result. The article sheds light on the stand-off over the Welfare Reform Act using data from the 2012 PSE Survey. It demonstrates that the impact of violent conflict is imprinted on the population in terms of high rates of deprivation, poor physical and mental health, and significant differences between those experiencing little or no conflict, and those with ‘high’ experience. In ignoring these legacies of the conflict, the Westminster government is risking peace in its ‘war against the poor’.
Critical Social Policy February 2016 36: 104-123, first published on October 6, 2015 doi:10.1177/0261018315609047
Shattering the silence: The power of Purposeful Storytelling in challenging social security policy discourses of ‘blame and shame’ in Northern Ireland
Gabi Kent, The Open University, England
This article reports on a pioneering engagement project between team members from the Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK (PSE UK) study, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and marginalised communities, located in areas of high deprivation in Northern Ireland. Community conversations and a tailor-made methodology of ‘Purposeful Digital Storytelling’ to capture and share data, engendered empowerment, engaging individuals and communities as producers of knowledge and agents of change. Findings from this Participatory Action Research collaboration offer fresh insights into the potential of collective knowledge sharing to challenge the corrosive impact of poverty-induced shame.
Critical Social Policy February 2016 36: 124-141, first published on October 16, 2015 doi:10.1177/0261018315604420

Journal of Poverty and Social Justice

Themed issue: Poverty and social exclusion in austere times: continuity and change, 1999-2012

October 2014, Volume 22, Number 3, Policy Press
Papers covered:
Poverty in Britain, 1999 and 2012: some emerging findings 
Eldin Fahmy, University of Bristol, UK 
This introductory article outlines emerging findings on deprivation of socially perceived necessities over the 1999–2012 period in Britain. By drawing on comparable surveys conducted in 1999 and 2012 it is possible to examine trends over this period in public attitudes to the necessities of life and the extent of deprivation. These data suggest that public perceptions of what constitute minimally adequate living standards have become less generous over this period. At the same time, comparing the same items in 1999 and 2012 suggests that deprivation of necessities has become more widespread among adults in Britain.
Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, Volume 22, Number 3, October 2014, pp. 181-191:
Children’s necessities: trends over time in perceptions and ownership
Gill Main & Jonathan Bradshaw, University of York, UK
Child poverty remains high on the UK political agenda. This paper informs these debates by examining trends over time in perceptions of child necessities, rates of child poverty and parental behaviours. Results indicate high levels of stability between 1999 and 2012 in public perceptions of child necessities, stable or increasing rates of child poverty and similarities in the profile of child poverty vulnerability. In both 1999 and 2012, findings show that the majority of parents prioritise children’s needs, posing a challenge for coalition rhetoric, and suggesting that a focus on structural rather than individual causes of poverty may be needed. 
Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, Volume 22, Number 3, October 2014, pp. 193-208:
Trends in poverty and disadvantage among households with disabled people from 1999–2012: from exclusion to inclusion?
Pauline Heslop, & Dave Gordon, University of Bristol, UK
This paper compares and contrasts the experiences of deprivation and disadvantage of households with a disabled person from 1999 to 2012. Data is drawn from two comparable datasets: the 1999 and 2012 Poverty and Social Exclusion Surveys of Britain. The trend at each survey period is consistent for most of the indicators. The experience of deprivation and disadvantage for households with disabled people has considerably worsened over the past 13 years, and at the most disadvantaged remain those households with a combination of disabled adult(s) and child(ren). Disabled people are now firmly established as being among the ‘poorest of the poor’.
Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, Volume 22, Number 3, October 2014, pp. 209-226:
Trends in older people’s perceptions of necessities and deprivation in Great Britain and Northern Ireland: what difference did a decade (or so) make?
Demi Patsios, University of Bristol, UK
This paper analyses trends in socially perceived necessities (SPNs), and in material and social deprivation among older people between 1999 (2002 in Northern Ireland) and 2012. Comparative analyses show not only that older people have reduced expectations of what are considered ‘necessities’, but also that they have lower rates of deprivation compared with older people a decade or so ago. Moreover, relative deprivation indices produce higher rates of deprivation among older people than absolute deprivation indices. A newly created deprivation index for older people raises only marginally the prevalence and incidence of deprivation among older people.
Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, Volume 22, Number 3, October 2014, pp. 227-251:
Gender and poverty in Britain: changes and continuities between 1999 and 2012
Esther Dermott & Christina Pantazis, University of Bristol, UK
Drawing on nationally representative surveys, this paper describes the contemporary relationship between gender and poverty in Britain and changes between 1999 and 2012. Poverty rates between men and women have converged: women today are only marginally poorer than men. Our analysis reveals that female lone parents’ poverty rates remain exceptionally high, the situation of older women has markedly improved, and there is an emerging poor group of solo-living men. We therefore argue that gendered analysis of poverty needs to consider the circumstances of men as well as women, and that some of the standard feminisation of poverty arguments require revision.
Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, Volume 22, Number 3, October 2014, pp. 253-269:

Social Policy and Society

Themed Section on Comparative Perspectives on Poverty and Inequality: Japan and the United Kingdom

Volume 13 / Issue 01 / January 2014, pp 143-154, Cambridge University Press, doi:10.1017/S1474746413000419
Published online: September 2013
Introduction: Comparative Perspectives on Poverty and Inequality: Japan and the United Kingdom
Christina Pantazis, University of Bristol
Poverty and inequality appear to be intractable features of rich industrialised nations. It is a great paradox that despite rising prosperity in most advanced industrialised countries over the last two or three decades, poverty and inequality have remained stubbornly high and have even increased in the majority of rich countries (OECD, 2008, 2011). The United Kingdom and Japan are no exceptions to these trends. Despite having markedly different historical trajectories, there is evidence that the two societies are converging on the issue of these pressing social problems.
Stigma, Shame and the Experience of Poverty in Japan and the United Kingdom 
Eileen Sutton, University of Bristol, UK, Simon Pemberton, University of Birmingham, UK,  Eldin Fahmy, University of Bristol, UKl and Yuko Tamiya, Kobe Gakuin University, Japan
Whilst stigma and shame are central features of the experience of poverty in capitalist societies, we know relatively little about crucial aspects of these phenomena, particularly how these experiences differ according to variety of capitalist formation. This article draws on the available empirical literature to examine these relational aspects of poverty in two very different societies, the UK and Japan. Through comparing these literatures, we are able to comment on the ways in which stigma is manifest in differing social, personal and institutional contexts and, therefore, is internalised as shame in similar and divergent forms in these respective societies. We note the very different social values and forms of welfare that constitute these societies which are at times responsible for contrasting experiences of shame, yet conclude that stigma and shame perform important functions within capitalist societies as a means to legitimate the continued existence of poverty within these social systems, and are therefore universal phenomena.
Volume 13 / Issue 01 / January 2014, pp 143-154, Cambridge University Press, doi:10.1017/S1474746413000419
Comparing Public Perceptions of the Necessities of Life across Two Societies: Japan and the United Kingdom
Aya Abe, National Institute of Population & Social Security Research, Tokyo, and Christina Pantazis, University of Bristol, UK
Establishing what constitutes ‘need’ has been a long-standing tradition in empirical investigations of poverty. In their pioneering Poor Britain study, Joanna Mack and Stewart Lansley (1985) developed the ‘consensual’ or ‘socially perceived deprivation’ approach. This sought the views of ordinary people (as opposed to academics or professional experts) in determining the necessities of life. Their approach subsequently provided the basis for further UK poverty surveys, as well as studies in other counties in Europe, Australasia, Africa and Asia. Despite this international proliferation, comparative analyses examining public perceptions of need across different societies and cultures remain sparse. This article presents findings from the first Japanese–UK comparative study based on nationally representative surveys informed by Mack and Lansley's approach. It compares the necessities of life in the two societies, examining differences as well as common socially perceived needs, and explores two possible explanations accounting for the variations found. In doing this, the article seeks to contribute to international debates on public attitudes towards the necessities of life.

Social Policy and Society

Volume 13, Issue 03, July 2014, pp 321 – 336, Cambridge University Press
Attitudes to the ‘Necessities of Life’: Would an Independent Scotland Set a Different Poverty Standard to the Rest of the UK?

Maria Gannon & Nick Bailey, University of Glasgow


This article examines whether the population of Scotland would set a different poverty standard compared with the rest of the UK. It is based on research on a consensual or democratic poverty measure, defined by majority views of the items or activities which should be considered the ‘necessities of life’. The article explores whether majority opinions are the same in Scotland as in the rest of the UK. More generally, it explores how attitudes differ north and south of the border, and possible reasons for this. Data on attitudes were collected through three closely related surveys in 2011 and 2012. The analysis suggests that, in the early years at least, a more independent Scotland would be unlikely to set a different social minimum. On this topic, as on many others, attitudes in Scotland are very similar to those in the rest of the UK.
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Journal of Social Policy

July, 2015; 44(3): 591–610. doi:  10.1017/S0047279415000033
Are We All Agreed? Consensual Methods and the ‘Necessities of Life’ in the UK Today 
Eldin Fahmy, University of Bristol, Eileen Sutton, University of Bristol and Simon Pemberton, University of Birmingham
In recent decades, consensual approaches to poverty measurement have been widely adopted in large-scale survey research both in the UK and internationally. However, while ascertaining the extent of public agreement on the ‘necessities of life’ has been central to this approach, long-standing critiques have questioned the nature of public consensus on poverty derived using survey methods. By drawing on new primary research preparatory to the 2012 UK Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey, we consider the contribution of qualitative methods in understanding public views on necessities and discuss their implications for survey-based poverty measurement. Our findings raise some important conceptual and measurement issues for consensual poverty measures within large-scale social surveys. Firstly, our research suggests that public understandings of the term ‘necessity’ are diverse and may not always be consistent with researchers’ interpretations or with wider usage of this term within consensual poverty measurement. Secondly, a better understanding of the considerations which inform survey respondents’ deliberations is needed. Thirdly, our findings have important implications for how we should interpret the concept of ‘consensus’ within the context of consensual poverty surveys, and emphasise the need for the application of more deliberative methods in determining public views on the ‘necessities of life’.

Housing Studies

2015 Vol. 30, No. 2, 295–314, Taylor Francis online,
How Neighbourhood Social Mix Shapes Access to Resources from Social Networks and from Services 
Nick Bailey , University of Glasgow, Kirsten Besemer Heriot-Watt University, Glen Bramley, Heriot-Watt university, & Mark Livingston, University of Glasgow
 Social mix policies have become controversial. Claims about the harms caused by neighbourhood effects have been challenged while counter-claims have been made about the potential benefits for low-income households from living in poor communities. This paper examines two aspects of this debate: whether deprived communities provide greater access to social networks and hence resources in the form of gifts, and whether they provide worse access to resources in the form of services. Data come from the largest survey of poverty ever conducted in the UK—the Poverty and Social Exclusion UK Survey 2012. Results do not support either position in the debate. They do not suggest that access to services is worse in deprived neighbourhoods for all services, but only for a minority. While people in deprived neighbourhoods report marginally greater contact with family and slightly higher levels of social support, there is no evidence of greater levels of exchange of gifts or reciprocity through social networks.


December 23, 2015, Sage Journals, doi:10.1177/0038038515616355
Money-Related Meanings and Practices in Low-Income and Poor Families
Mary Daly, University of Oxford
This article focuses on the meanings and repertoires of action associated with money in low-income and poverty circumstances. Based on interviews with 51 people, the analysis reveals how people on a low income actively engage with money as a way of situating themselves in their complex worlds. Money is investigated at two levels: praxis and orientation regarding spending, and as part of self-identity. In regard to spending, people displayed two main repertoires: one was functional (viewing money as a way of meeting material need) and the second relational (with money interpreted in regard to relationships and upholding of personal and familial values). These repertoires in turn link into self-understanding and world view. For people in poverty and low income, money can be a disabler, detracting from a valued identity and sense of future but a counter, more positive, orientation normalises lack of money, by reference to skills and character development and core values and relationships. The research as a whole underlines the complexity of money in low-income or poverty settings, the agency and creativity which people bring to its use and the diverse meanings they invest it with.
2016, Vol. 50(1) 125 –142, doi: 10.1177/0038038514560260
‘Good’ Parenting Practices:How Important are Poverty, Education and Time Pressure?
Esther Dermott, University of Bristol, UK; Marco Pomati,Cardiff University, UK
This article examines how parenting practices popularly classed as ‘good’ are related to poverty, education and time pressure. Using the 2012 UK Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) survey we argue that parenting practices such as reading, playing games and eating meals together are not absent among those who are less well educated, have lower incomes or are more deprived  of socially accepted necessities: therefore, political claims of widespread ‘poor parenting’ are misplaced. Further, we suggest that the dominant trope of poor people being poor at parenting may arise because the activities of the most educationally advantaged parents – who do look different to the majority – are accepted as the benchmark against whom others are assessed. This leads us to suggest that the renewed interest in sociological research on elites should be extended to family life in order that the exceptionality of the most privileged is recognised and analysed.

Policy & Politics 

Volume 41, Number 2, April 2013, pp. 139-157(19), Policy press, doi 10.1332/030557312X655530
Is everybody happy? The politics and measurement of national wellbeing
Michael W. Tomlinson and Grace P. Kelly, Queen's University, Belfast
This article explores the political and intellectual influences behind the growth of interest in happiness and the emergence of the new ‘science of happiness’. It offers a critique of the use of subjective wellbeing indicators within indexes of social and economic progress, and argues that the proposed United Kingdom’s National Well-being Index is over-reliant on subjective measures. We conclude by arguing that the mainstreaming of happiness indicators reflects and supports the emergence of ‘behavioural social policy’.
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Quantity and Quality

Published online 25 December, 2014; Qual Quant (2016) 50:193–212, Springer; DOI 10.1007/s11135-014-0144-2
Quantitative conversations: the importance of developing rapport in standardised interviewing
Karen Bell, Eldin Fahmy, David Gordon, University of Bristol
When developing household surveys, much emphasis is understandably placed on developing survey instruments that can elicit accurate and comparable responses. In order to ensure that carefully crafted questions are not undermined by ‘interviewer effects’, standardised interviewing tends to be utilised in preference to conversational techniques. However, by drawing on a behaviour coding analysis of survey paradata arising from the 2012 UK Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey we show that in practice standardised survey interviewing often involves extensive unscripted conversation between the interviewer and the respondent. Whilst these interactions can enhance response accuracy, cooperation and ethicality, unscripted conversations can also be problematic in terms of survey reliability and the ethical conduct of survey interviews, as well as raising more basic epistemological questions concerning the degree of standardisation typically assumed within survey research. We conclude that better training in conversational techniques is necessary, even when applying standardised interviewing methodologies. We also draw out some theoretical implications regarding the usefulness of the qualitative–quantitative dichotomy.

Social Indicators Research

Oct 2015: 1-22, Springer
Comparative Assessment of Methods for Measuring Consensual Poverty: Sort Card Versus CAPI
Grace Kelly, Queen’s University, Belfast, Michael Tomlinson, Queen’s University, Belfast, Demi Patsios, University of Bristol
Poverty means more than having a low income and includes exclusion from a minimally accepted way of life. It is now common practice in Europe to measure progress against poverty in terms of low income, material deprivation rates and some combination of both. This makes material deprivation indicators, and their selection, highly significant in its own right. The ‘consensual poverty’ approach is to identify deprivation items which a majority of the population agree constitute life’s basic necessities, accepting that these items will need revised over time to reflect social change. Traditionally, this has been carried out in the UK through specialised poverty surveys using a Sort Card (SC) technique. Based on analysis of a 2012 omnibus survey, and discussions with three interviewers, this article examines how perception of necessities is affected by mode of administration—SC and Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI). More CAPI respondents scored deprivation items necessary. Greatest disparities are in material items where 25 out of 32 items were significantly higher via CAPI. Closer agreement is found in social participation with 3 out of 14 activities significantly different. Consensus is higher on children’s material deprivation. We consider influencing variables which could account for the disparities and believe that the SC method produces a more considered response. However, in light of technological advances, we question how long the SC method will remain socially acceptable. This paper concludes that the CAPI method can be easily modified without compromising the benefits of the SC method in capturing thoughtful responses.

Child Indicators Research

2012, 5, 3, 503-52, Springer; doi 10.1007/s12187-012-9145-7
A child material deprivation index 
Gill Main and Jonathan Bradshaw, University of York 
Child poverty is high on the policy agenda in the UK and the European Union. But poverty and deprivation is almost exclusively measured by asking adults (parents) about their incomes and living standards. Some qualitative work has been done asking children about poverty but this article develops a new, child-centric measure using children as informants. Data from two surveys run by the Children's Society are used, both covering children aged 8-16. One included 2,000 respondents and data were linked to income data provided by parents, the other included almost 5,500 respondents and covered detailed topics relating to children's material situation and their subjective well-being. A new ten item deprivation index was developed and children were asked whether they lacked the items, and if so whether they wanted them or not. It was found that this index explained more of the variation in subjective well-being than parental income poverty explained. This is partly because there were deprived children living in families which were not income poor and non deprived children living in families which were income poor. Child material deprivation was found to be more strongly related to low subjective well-being than the absence of deprivation was to high subjective well-being.

Other specialist journals


Poverty issue 151, Summer 2015, CPAG, London
A divided Britain
Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack, The Open University
Britain has a poor record on poverty. While overall wealth in Britain has doubled over the last three decades, child poverty today is much higher than it was a generation ago and much higher than in most other rich countries. Moreover, even though unemployment has been falling recently, most experts predict that, driven by an increasingly fragile jobs market, the continuing rise of insecure work and a much weaker safety net, poverty levels will continue to rise over the next few years. As a new government begins its term, Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack present a picture of a divided Britain.
Poverty issue 151, Summer 2015, CPAG, London
Measuring Child poverty: can we do better?
Jonathan Bradshaw, University of York
In June 2012 when the government published the Households Below Average Income dataset for 2010/11, it announced at the same time that it would revisit the question of how we measure child poverty in the UK. In November 2012, a public consultation on the topic was launched when the Department for Work and Pensions issued the document Measuring Child Poverty: a consultation on better measures of child poverty. Jonathan Bradshaw looks at the key aspects of the various dimensions that the government has selected for inclusion, assesses their appropriateness for inclusion in any metric of child poverty and presents the shortcomings of the proposed new measure.


Publication date: 
Jan 29 2016