Posted: 06 October 2017

Use our poverty line calculator to track poverty levels since 2000

If you have followed the UK’s progress on its child poverty targets, or some of the recent debates about family living standards, 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.

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 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. A family living on the poverty line or on median income would have these amounts of disposable income left over after paying taxes and housing costs (such as rent or mortgage interest).

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 2000-17 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. 

Poverty line calculator

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

You can choose to see the results with or without the benefit cap applied. The benefit cap was introduced in 2013 and limits the total amount of benefits most out of work households can receive. The level of the cap was reduced in 2016 and now differs depending on whether you live inside or outside Greater London. Entering a weekly rent amount will make the Benefit Cap calculation more accurate.

Please see our methodology for information about sources of our information.


The 2000-2015 poverty thresholds are based on the DWP's (Department for Work and Pensions) Households below average income report series; 2016 to 2017 thresholds are based on income growth estimates published by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

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, on account of disabilities. The calculator also does not show rates of support for working families.

In order to more accurately apply the benefit cap, we assume that Housing Benefit equal to rent is added to total other benefits and the cap applied to this total. The rent is then deducted at the end to arrive at income after housing costs.

The '2-child limit' and removal of the family element for tax credits have been applied for 2017 cases - it should be noted that transitional arrangements mean that many families would currently receive exemptions from these measures. The calculator is a simplified model seeking to demonstrate how the benefits system looks in the long-term. It is not intended to be used by claimants to calculate their entitlements.

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.


This page has been updated since its original publication in 2012.

By Sam Royston - Policy team

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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).