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Seebohm Rowntree and the Post-War Poverty Puzzle

Author

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  • Bailey, Roy E
  • Hatton, Timothy J.

Abstract

In his third social survey of York carried out in 1950, Seebohm Rowntree reported a steep decline since 1936 of the percentage of households in poverty. He attributed the bulk of this decline to government welfare reforms enacted during and after the War. Some observers have been uneasy about these striking results, especially with the rediscovery of poverty in the 1960s. In this paper we re-examine the surviving records from the 1950 survey, making the poverty line more consistent with that of 1936 and looking more closely at the measurement of income. We also re-assess the impact of welfare reforms on working class poverty. We find that poverty in York was significantly higher, and the contribution of welfare reform substantially less, than was originally reported. These findings suggest a less optimistic view of the impact of welfare reforms during the Beveridge era.

Suggested Citation

  • Bailey, Roy E & Hatton, Timothy J., 1999. "Seebohm Rowntree and the Post-War Poverty Puzzle," CEPR Discussion Papers 2147, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2147
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Hatton, T J & Bailey, R E, 1988. "Female Labour Force Participation in Interwar Britain," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 40(4), pages 695-718, December.
    2. Hatton, Timothy J & Bailey, Roy E, 2002. "Unemployment Incidence in Interwar London," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 69(276), pages 631-654, November.
    3. Hatton, Timothy J & Bailey, Roy E, 1998. "Poverty and the Welfare State in Interwar London," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(4), pages 574-606, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Frijters, Paul & Hatton, Timothy J. & Martin, Richard M. & Shields, Michael A., 2010. "Childhood economic conditions and length of life: Evidence from the UK Boyd Orr cohort, 1937-2005," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 39-47, January.
    2. Celso Nunes, 2008. "The Economic Thought on Poverty Measurement: From the Nineteenth-Century to the Rediscovering Era," Working Papers 92, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    3. Hazel Acosta & Diego Christian Cajas Quishpe, 2017. "Primary Poverty: Evolving Definitions, Scope and Implications," ENSAYOS DE ECONOMÍA 016806, UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL DE COLOMBIA SEDE MEDELLIN.
    4. Gazeley, Ian & Newell, Andrew T., 2007. "Poverty in Britain in 1904: An Early Social Survey Rediscovered," IZA Discussion Papers 3046, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Post-War Britain; Poverty; Seebohm Rowntree; Social Security; Social Surveys;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-

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