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The Poor and the Poorest, Fifty Years On


  • Gazeley, Ian

    () (University of Sussex)

  • Newell, Andrew T.

    () (University of Sussex)

  • Reynolds, Kevin

    () (University of Brighton)

  • Searle, Rebecca

    () (University of Sussex)


We re-explore Able-Smith and Townsend's landmark study of poverty in early post WW2 Britain. They found a large increase in poverty between 1953-4 and 1960, a period of relatively strong economic growth. Our re-examination is a first exploitation of the newly-digitised Board of Trade Household Expenditure Survey data set for 1953/4. Able-Smith and Townsend used only a small part of this data source. We find that Able-Smith and Townsend substantially over-estimated the rise in absolute poverty and also substantially under-estimated the rise in relative poverty. Their and our findings on poverty reflect a large rise inequality in the distribution of expenditure among British households. This rise is related to a rise in the preponderance of pensioner households, who, for instance, account for all the poor households in the 1961 Family Expenditure survey.

Suggested Citation

  • Gazeley, Ian & Newell, Andrew T. & Reynolds, Kevin & Searle, Rebecca, 2014. "The Poor and the Poorest, Fifty Years On," IZA Discussion Papers 7909, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7909

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    poverty; inequality 1950s; Britain;

    JEL classification:

    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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