Research and analysis

Understanding material deprivation among older people (IHR14)

Research into understanding of the relationship between material deprivation and low income among pensioners.



In-House Research No. 14

Anna Bartlett, Claire Frew & Joanne Gilroy

The motivation for carrying out this package of research was to deepen our understanding of the relationship between material deprivation and low income, given that we know that only a small proportion of pensioners living on a low income are materially deprived. This report is published alongside in-depth qualitative research on the relationship between material deprivation and low income.

DWP publishes statistics on pensioners living on low incomes in the annual Households Below Average Income (HBAI) series. Although income is an important factor in determining living standards, other non-financial factors can also have an impact. Since 2009/10, HBAI has reported on a measure of pensioner material deprivation, having been introduced into the Family Resources Survey (FRS) in May 2008, which helps to broaden out the analysis of poverty beyond income. FRS respondents are asked whether they have access to 15 goods and services, which were identified by extensive independent academic analysis, from which a material deprivation score is calculated.

As the material deprivation measure is relatively new, this analysis builds our understanding of how the measure is working and the nature of the lived experiences of older people. These reports, taken together, provide a comprehensive account of material deprivation among older people. Poverty is a wider concept than just low income, and these analyses will be used to inform the Department’s thinking and will add to the wider ongoing debate regarding poverty measurement.

A full summary which synthesises the findings from the quantitative and qualitative reports is available here: