Headlines: July 17th, 2007


A new, more detailed method of comparing poverty and wealth trends shows inequality in Britain is at its most pronounced for more than 40 years. The research is published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and comes as second report, reveals that the public believe there is too big a gap between rich and poor people.

The researchers behind the first report found that people who were living in already wealthy areas have tended to become disproportionately wealthier. Many rich people, the study shows, live in areas that are segregated from the rest of society. Meanwhile more households have become poor over the last 15 years, although fewer are classed as very poor.

The report uses more detailed comparisons than have been possible before and it includes comprehensive maps based on census and survey data to illustrate the changes in poverty and wealth between 1968 and 2005. It says the widening gap between rich and poor means there are fewer ‘average’ households, those measured as neither poor nor wealthy.

The report raises questions about what Britain will look like in ten years’ time if trends continue as they have. Danny Dorling, who led the research, said, “Most interesting and certainly unexpected when this work began is the geography of those households who are neither rich nor poor. Over time it has become clear that there is less and less room in the south for them; they have either moved elsewhere, or become poor.”

The second study looked at attitudes to inequality and found that over the last 20 years, a large majority of people have felt the gap between high and low incomes is too large. People are more likely to think that higher earners are overpaid, than to believe those on low incomes are underpaid. The report concludes that while people believe economic inequality is a problem there is no consensus about how it should be tackled.