• Over one in 10 children are classed as materially deprived and living in a low-income household (11%), with 4% of children classed as materially deprived and living in a severely low-income household. 
  • 6% of pensioners are materially deprived.  
  • The proportion of those experiencing low income and material deprivation has decreased for both pensioners and children, while the proportion of children with severe low income and material deprivation has increased slightly since 2010/11.

This chart shows the proportion of children identified as being materially deprived and living in a household with either low income or severe low income, and the proportion of pensioners identified as materially deprived in the UK, between 2004/05 and 2018/19. Low income is defined as a household  with a net household income, before housing costs, below 70% of the median. Severe low income is defined as a household with a net household income, before housing costs, below 50% of the median.

Material deprivation is defined as lacking in access to essential  items. 

  • Children: these items potentially include warm winter coats, leisure equipment, and social participation costs, such as attending school trips. 
  • Pensioners: these items potentially include having a filling meal every day, a sufficiently heated home, and being able to attend a social engagement once a month. 

Lacking essentials, such as a warm winter coat, a filling meal, or inadequate heating for the home, can directly affect health.

Material deprivation, and lacking access to essential items that provide a basic standard of living and level of social participation matters for health, independently of income, and is much more strongly associated with poor health and an extended period of lacking resources. Time spent without adequate resources has implications for both long-term and short-term health.

The increase in severe low income and material deprivation is particularly concerning.

  • The proportion of pensioners experiencing material deprivation has been declining since the metric was introduced: from 10% in 2009/10 to 6% in 2018/19. 
  • In 2018/19, around 4% of children were living in a household with severe low income and were above the material deprivation threshold . This figure has risen slightly since 2010/11. 
  • In contrast, the share of children living in households with low income and material deprivation has fallen from 13% in 2009/10 to 11% in 2018/19. 

The equivalent income measures for pensioner and child poverty have not moved in the same direction over this time, reflecting the need for a wider perspective on poverty that includes not just income. Movement around an income threshold can also miss changes to the experience of people already below the poverty threshold . This is a particular issue given the nature of social security cuts, such as the benefit cap (limiting the amount of benefits a working-age family can receive) and the two-child limit (capping support through Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit to a maximum of two children). 

Material deprivation represents a more severe form of disadvantage and can highlight important issues missed by income measures alone. The gradual growth in child material deprivation should lead to a re-evaluation of policy measures, such as social security cuts and reductions in local preventive services, both of which are likely to have contributed to this growth.

  • This chart shows how many children and pensioners (using a different suite of questions) lack basic essential items. Weight is assigned to the lacked item based on how often it is lacking. This means it is still a relative measure, but with more focus on lacking goods and services than income. Income alone does not always reflect the resources available to people.
  • When people meet a certain threshold of lacked items (this is combined with an income measure for children), they are considered to be materially deprived.
  • Low income for children is defined as living in a household with net household income, before housing costs, below 70% of the median. Severe low income is defined as living in a household with net household income, before housing costs, below 50% of the median.
  • The measure of material deprivation for children changed in 2010/11, creating a break in the series. Measures for pensioners were available from 2009/10.

Source: Department for Work and Pensions, Households below average income: 1994/95 to 2018/19, 2020

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