We worked with the University of Leeds to research how families in different socio-economic conditions think about and share their resources

What was the research project?

There’s a widely-held narrative in society that families in poverty are doing things differently to better-off families, or have lower aspirations for themselves and their children. We undertook some research to look at how families from across a wide range of socio-economic statuses talked, thought, felt, and behaved in relation to sharing their resources.

We were particularly interested in whether children’s and families’ approaches were different based on the level of income and resources available to them.

What were the findings?

We found very little evidence that there were differences in how families thought about and shared their resources based on their socio-economic status.

Children and parents from different backgrounds all had similar interests, aspirations, and ideas about what a fair distribution of resources would be. Where we did find a difference was in the ways that children’s needs were met, for example, better-off children had access to a wider range of resources.

We also found a difference in the extent to which children’s wants and needs could be fulfilled. For example, better-off children had the resources to explore a wider range of interests, in a wider range of ways. Children from better-off families tended, not only to benefit from higher levels of resources within their family or household, but also from better-resourced networks – like relatives or friends who could help them to access higher-status experiences. This can demonstrate itself, for example, in a work experience position in prestigious industries or occupations, while a child from a lower-income family may not be able to afford to do work experience and need to go straight into a paid work position.

As a result, families with more resources perceived themselves to be doing things differently compared to families with fewer resources – even though the only difference we found was in their resources, rather than their behaviours or aspirations. 

Read the report