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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They do; it's called London weighting. That's why your salary is higher than the equivalent job in Manchester. Yet the rent in Oxford, Cambridge, St Albans, Canterbury, is the same as in London, or more because there are way fewer flats, but the wages are lower. You probably aren't as hard done by as you think!

Millions of reasons why people are in London, in poverty and stuck that way. Try living in the real world for ten minutes, arrogant fool.

for example;
A. What if you were born in London and can't afford to move? if you're disabled you need to hire a van (1300 for a one bed flat to move out of London 50 miles).

B. What if you grew up in St Albans and can't get a job there and can't afford the rent, so you move to London because it's cheaper and there are jobs?

c. What if you moved to London because a relative needs care, but you don't have anywhere to live? What if you moved there to work, because in Liverpool there aren't even cleaning jobs going...?

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According to this our family (married, 4 children, dad has full time job, mum cares for children full time) has always hovered above or below the poverty line. RUBBISH! We are not poor. We have never gone cold or hungry.
Real poverty is being hungry and cold and having no essential medicine. UK poverty is not affording the latest electronic game, latest fashion and a new sofa.
By this calculator, "poverty" currently means a bigger income than what we are VERY comfortable on.

BBC news says that "POOR" children turn up to school hungry? Well, I have fed my 4 children very well around the "poverty line" - plenty of good healthy home cooked food, no convenience meals or junk. (the latter costs more than home made healthy food anyway)
"Cold chips in lunch box" means poverty? NO! Takeaway chips cost MORE than a pasta salad or brown bread and cheese sandwich. Hungry children in UK are not suffering poverty, they're suffering poor parenting. Training a generation to be prudent and wise is what's needed, not more breakfast clubs to further absolve parents of their responsibilities.

I am an engineer, I am a professional, one of the so called 'middle class'... I can't afford a home, I can't afford to feed my children, we haven't had a holiday, foreign, domestic or otherwise in years! I have had to learn to sew in order to make clothes and grow as much food as I can rather than buy it - we are a couple and have four kids, but would be MASSIVELY better off if we were divorced, simply because of the way 'benefits' work - and no, we live nowhere near London.

As a student classed as not eligible for the full student loan for various reasons, mostly to do with an attempted degree some time earlier, and consequently having to pay my fees and such like out of my own meagre benefits and savings... At best I find myself living on £40 a week, less than a third of the poverty line figure given above, and to be honest, I feel like I am managing quite well, I may not have all the latest modern luxuries, but I get heating and electricity and food on the table. If I were to go from this to living on just the full unemployment benefit allowance, I would feel like I had loads of money coming in. I guess it's all relative to what you're used to?

Family of 5 husband works full time has done since he was 15 (including attending college) I can not afford to work due to child care costs..- £258 per month below the line, but hubbys income mean we do not get to any help such as school dinners, hb, he gets taxed down to lower than what we whould be if he didnt work.

I tried this calculator to understand the poverty line. I have 2 masters degrees and do not understand what the calculator is telling me. Do you have to be on benefit to understand it?