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  • People from all minority ethnic groups experience greater rates of poverty than white people. 
  • The poverty rate for people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnicity is more than twice as high (47% and 55%, respectively) than the rate for white people (19%).
  • Disabled people are six percentage points more likely to be in poverty than non-disabled people (27% compared with 21%).  
  • 48% of single-parent households live in poverty, compared with 12% of couples without children and 23% of couples with children.

Poverty can affect someone’s health when financial resources are insufficient to meet their basic living needs, such as adequate heating for the home, appropriate clothing or adequate nutrition. 

This chart shows the proportion of people living in poverty in the UK in 2019/20 and is broken down by different characteristics: ethnicity, disability and family composition. 

Ethnicity 

The poverty rate is higher for every minority ethnic group than for people of white ethnicity (19%), but levels vary significantly: 

  • The poverty rate for people of Indian ethnicity is 24%. 
  • The poverty rate for people of Pakistani (47%) and Bangladeshi (55%) ethnicity is twice as high as the rate for people of white ethnicity. 
  • The poverty rate for people of black ethnicity is 40%. 

This variation largely reflects differences in employment, earnings and housing tenure. For example, the employment rate for people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin is around 16 percentage points lower than the average, hourly pay is lower and fewer people in these groups own their homes, so have higher housing costs. The poverty rate for most minority ethnic groups increases markedly when accounting for housing costs. These outcomes reflect a variety of factors, including discrimination in employment and services. For migrants, the nature of migration can be a factor (for example, whether migration was through channels that make employment harder, such as asylum), and how recently they arrived in the UK. 

Disability

The poverty rate for disabled people is 27%, compared with 21% for non-disabled people. 

Within this measure there will be significant variation in poverty, partly related to the type of disability someone has. The standard measure of poverty potentially understates the extent of poverty for many disabled people because their income can be overstated. This is because the income measure includes income from benefits designed to cover the additional costs of disability, such as special equipment or higher heating bills, without the costs of such support being accounted for.

Household composition 

Poverty rates vary for different family types: 

  • 48% for single parents
  • 12% for couples without children.

These differences reflect two key dynamics. The first is that households with children tend to have higher poverty rates because there are more people in the household relative to its potential income. The second is that housing costs for a couple can be similar to those of single people, but their income can be double.

Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of ill-health, but is not inevitable. It can be addressed with the right policies and co-ordinated action on the different factors that can push people into poverty and keep them there. This means taking action on the cost of living, the availability of affordable housing, improving the quality of work and education, and building an adequate social security system that supports any of us when we don’t have enough to meet our needs. Policy must also take account of the inequalities affecting particular groups of people, including disabled people and carers, single parents, and people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

  • The data used for this indicator is from the 2019/20 period and is the latest available. Equivalent data for the 2020/21 period is not available due to data collection issues caused by the pandemic.
  • Poverty is defined as an individual living in a household with a net household income below 60% of that year’s median. 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 fewer options for meeting their housing costs, relative to their income. 
  • Disability is defined as reporting any physical or mental health condition(s) or illness(es) that lasts or is expected to last 12 months or more, and that limits someone’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities either a little or a lot.

Source: Department for Work and Pensions, Households below average income, 2020

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