• People of black ethnicity are more than twice as likely to be in persistent poverty than white people.
  • Renters were between five and six times more likely to be in persistent poverty than homeowners.
  • People in households with at least one adult not working full time were more than four times as likely to be in persistent poverty than people in households where all adults work full time.

The chart looks at persistent poverty prevalence by different demographic characteristics. Persistent poverty refers to prolonged experiences of poverty and is defined here as an individual living in a household that has been living in poverty for 3 of the past 4 years. Persistent poverty rates are compared on two measures of income: one is net income taking account of tax and benefit payments (before housing costs); the other also taking account of the cost of housing (after housing costs). 

Persistent poverty is of particular interest from a health perspective because some mechanisms, such as stress and allostatic load (the ‘wear and tear’ over time) accumulate. For example, research on child poverty found that any exposure to poverty in childhood was associated with worse health outcomes, but the effects were more severe for children living in persistent poverty

The proportion of people living in persistent poverty in different groups varies and is dependent on several attributes, which are related to the risk factors for being in poverty in any given year. 

  • Almost 28% of those households headed by a person of black/African/Caribbean/black British ethnicity live in persistent poverty, which is more than twice as high as a household headed by a person of white ethnicity. Differences in poverty rates suggest that those from Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups have the highest persistent poverty rates, but sample size restricts a detailed breakdown of data.  
  • Over 30% of people in the private rented sector are in persistent poverty This reflects lower employment rates for renters, and is associated with how social housing is allocated to those with higher needs. 
  • Around 23% of people living in households with no working-age adult working, or where at least one adult is not working, live in persistent poverty, compared with 6% of people living in households where all working-age adults work. This indicates that income from work reduces the risk of being in poverty. 
  • 14% of people living in a household where someone has a disability are in persistent poverty, compared with 10% of people living in households where no one has a disability. This smaller gap in persistent poverty suggests that other household characteristics present a greater risk to persistent poverty than disability.

Differences in exposure to adverse experiences, such as persistent poverty, can help explain health inequalities. Policy action to reduce exposure to these experiences will help to reduce health inequalities.

  • Persistent poverty is defined as an individual living in a household experiencing poverty (a net household income below 60% of the median in that year) for at least 3 of the past 4 years. 
  • Income is adjusted for household size to reflect economies of scale, for example, a household of four needs more income for the same standard of living as a household of one, but not four times as much. 
  • Housing costs are deducted from income, to reflect that people with lower incomes in particular have less choice about their cost of housing, relative to their income. 
  • Disability is defined as having a long-standing physical or mental impairment, illness or disability. 
  • Being in work is defined as any working-age adult in the household undertaking paid work.

Source: Department for Work and Pensions, Income Dynamics, 2010 to 2018, 2020

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