Income inequality in the UK

The Commons Library briefing Income inequality in the UK looks at income inequality and how it has changed over the past fifty years and more recently. 

In 2017/18, 42% of all disposable household income in the UK went to the 20% of people with the highest household incomes, while 7% went to the lowest-income 20% (based on disposable income before housing costs have been deducted).

The briefing also explores international comparisons.

Institute for Fiscal Studies

Institute for Fiscal Studies, Inequalities in the twenty-first century (14 May 2019) introduces the IFS Deaton Review of inequalities, setting out background facts and questions for this new five-year project.  Section 2 looks at patterns and trends in inequalities in incomes, health and family structures and between different groups,  Section 3 looks at sources of inequality and Section 4 at policy.

See also the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ other publications on Inequality, poverty and living standards.

Resolution Foundation

The Resolution Foundation project household income growth for different groups in their Living Standards Outlook 2019.  Conclusions include that:

  • The outlook for typical incomes is worse for families with children, single adults, social renters and those with mortgages.
  • The UK is not projected to meet its Sustainable Development Goal target on inequality over the forecast period, with income growth for the poorest 40 per cent expected to remain lower than overall growth rather than exceeding it.

See also the Resolution Foundation’s other publications and blog posts on incomes and inequality

Social mobility

Social Mobility Index by Constituency (SMIC)

The Commons Library Briefing Paper Social Mobility Index by Constituency (SMIC) provides local level estimates for Westminster Parliamentary constituencies in England (constituency data is not available for Wales and Scotland). The SMIC provides an indication of how likely a person from a disadvantaged background in each constituency is to progress to a higher social status later in life using 14 variables which represent four life stages: early years, school age, youth, and adulthood. 

There are also two dashboards presenting relevant SMIC data for a constituency of choice. These include:

  • Actual values for each of the 14 variables and the range of values among the 533 constituencies in England;
  • Index scores and rankings for each variable and life stage;
  • Comparison with the five highest and lowest ranked constituencies

The Social Mobility Index by Constituency dashboard is available in an Excel file that accompanies the: “SMIC”. The second version of the SMIC dashboard is available online on the HC Library’s website Local Data section. This SMIC online dashboard allows comparisons between constituencies.  

Social Mobility Commission

The Social Mobility Commission has a duty to promote social mobility in England and provides an independent scrutiny and advocacy role on social mobility in England. The Commission is required to publish an annual report assessing progress on improving social mobility in the United Kingdom – this is the annual “State of the Nation” report.

The Commissions Sixth Report, and the first since the appointment of Dame Martina Milburn as Chair: Social mobility in Great Britain – state of the nation 2018 to 2019 “highlights that:

  • inequality is entrenched in Britain, from birth to work
  • being born privileged means you are likely to remain privileged, whilst being born disadvantaged means you may have to overcome barriers to improve you and your children’s social mobility
  • urgent action needs to be taken to help close the privilege gap”.

Social Mobility Barometer 2018 report

This report looks at the UK public’s attitude to social mobility in 2018. In the foreword to the report Dame Martina Milburn states: “we are relaunching the Social Mobility Commission with a renewed focus on improving social mobility and driving real action across sectors”. Amongst the main findings the poll shows:

  • Nearly half of people (46%) say that where you end up in society is largely determined by who your parents are
  • It is typically younger generations who feel more acutely that background determines where you end up, with almost half (48%) of 25-49 year olds agreeing with this statement compared with 38% of those aged 65 and over.
  • Three quarters of people (75%) say poorer people are less likely to go to a top university and 64% say they have less opportunity to get into a professional career.

APPG on Social Mobility

The APPG on Social Mobility, Chaired by Justin Madders MP, “was set up to discuss and evaluate key issues, research and indicators of social mobility and barriers to it”.

The latest report from the APPG: Closing the regional attainment gap looked at “the gap in attainment between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from more affluent backgrounds and why this gap is more pronounced in different parts of the country”.  The data from the report suggests that while the attainment gap in large conurbations, whether in the North or the South of the country, was relatively low, areas outside of these and their immediate hinterlands had the highest gap.

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