UK poverty study shows adults skimping on food

More than one in four adults skimped on their own food in the past year to allow others in their households to eat, according to the UK’s largest study of poverty and deprivation which included research by experts at York.


This is just one of the stark findings from the Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE) project which found that over half a million children live in families who cannot afford to feed them properly.

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw, from our Department of Social Policy and Social Work, said: “The research has shown that in many households parents sacrifice their own welfare - going without adequate food, clothing or a social life - in order to try to protect their children from poverty and deprivation.”

Minimum standard of living

The percentage of households falling below the minimum standard of living has more than doubled in the last 30 years.

The PSE standard of living survey also found that:

  • 18 million people cannot afford adequate housing
  • one in three cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in the winter
  • four million children and adults are not properly fed by today’s standards.

More than one in every five children and adults were poor at the end of 2012. They had a low income and lacked essentials such as food, heating and clothing due to a lack of money.

The rising cost of living and low wages in some parts of the UK means that a full-time job is not enough to stop some people falling into poverty: one in every six adults in paid work is classified as ‘poor’.

Poverty line

The survey found that the majority of children who fall below the poverty line live in small families with one or two siblings, live with both parents, have at least one parent who is employed, are white and live in England.

The report was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Research was carried out by the University of Bristol, Heriot-Watt University, the Open University, Queen's University Belfast, University of Glasgow, University of Oxford, University of Birmingham, the National Centre for Social Research and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, as well as the University of York.

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Many parents sacrifice their own welfare - going without adequate food, clothing or a social life - in order to ... protect their children.”

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw CBE
Department of Social Policy and Social Work
Featured researcher
Professor Jonathan Bradshaw CBE

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw CBE

Associate Director of the Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU)

Main research interests are in child poverty and child well-being. Made CBE for services to child poverty and is a Fellow of the British Academy.

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