Posted: 16 November 2012

Use our new calculator to track the shifting poverty line

If you have followed the government’s new consultation on measuring child poverty, you may be interested to find out how complicated it is to establish how much money a particular family in the UK needs in order to be above the income poverty line. (Use our new calculator.)

It's often complicated because the poverty line for a family varies to account for factors such as the age of family members and the family's size. While a variable poverty line makes sense – after all, a five-person family needs more money to meet the same standard of living as a three-person family – it makes it impossible to give a single, fixed amount of cash a family needs to escape poverty.

However, our new calculator allows you to get an idea of what the poverty line looks like for a given family type. By inputting some basic household details, you can calculate a family’s poverty line in any year from 2000 to the present.

Try our calculator

To use our new calculator, simply select a year and add the details for a family type you would like to explore. The rows towards the lower half of the calculator will give you details about the poverty line and median income for the given year.

The calculator also shows weekly out-of-work benefit levels for working age claimants and their children.

The chart at the bottom of the page shows you how the family's base benefit rate has changed from 2000-2012 as a proportion of the poverty line and of median income (also varied to take account of household composition). Year by year, this enables you to see how benefit levels for a particular family corresponds to the poverty line and average income.

Let us know what you think

Share any notable or interesting findings you uncover while using the calculator by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page.

In addition to publishing some of our own analysis based on findings from the calculator over the next few weeks, we will also develop the calculator (eg by incorporating food or fuel poverty levels). Let us know if you have any ideas for variables that would be useful to you.

By Sam Royston, Policy Adviser


Poverty line calculator

Complete the first five rows to calculate the poverty line, median income and benefit rates*, expressed in pounds per week.

*Benefit rates shown are the base benefit rates for out of work households with no other sources of income. The calculator does not show additions, for example, for support with housing costs, or on account of disabilities. The calculator also does not show rates of support for working families.

For simplicity, child tax credit baby addition for families with a child under one (2003-2011) and additional child premiums for children over age 16 (2000-2003) are excluded from this analysis.

Read more and take action

  • Play our new online game The Poverty Trap to see how hard it can be for a family to escape poverty
  • Read our response to the government's consultation on measuring child poverty
  • Join our Fair and Square campaign to ensure that all children in poverty receive a free school meal
By Sam Royston - Policy team

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As a 24 yr old graduate renting in London, in a full-time professional graduate job in a growing industry, I am technically just above the poverty line with my current salary. Would be nice if private sector companies in London recognised how big a proportion of salary for junior employees is swallowed by rent. And transport costs!

Brilliant - benefit scrongger here worked all my life even got a degree single parent child at uni and worked until a few years ago now- -£-60.54 below poverty line being on JSA with a chronic illness which will only get worse - want a job but not alot around for the fit people! and not quite ill enough yet for ESA or DLA - now hit by over occupancey as daughter in uni and only home for hols and council tax - so in April £-40.54 below poverty - mind kinda know that its freezing with no gas on and already having meals and handouts from friends. Welfare Reform Act - having reverse effect on me wanted to work and managed condition well but continued hassle/worry has made my condition much worse in last months and now feeling less able or capable to work and homelessness seems a very real fear for 2013.
people it may not affect you yet - but beware the welfare reform bill - will have far reaching consequencies

Alternatively, people could stop moving to London if they cant afford to live there.

These figures are staggering ... Looking to get a handle on what it might be like for children in our school living in poverty and actually VERY shocked at the numbers (and the comments so far).