Use our poverty line calculator to track poverty levels since 2000

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Have you ever wondered about the definition of poverty in the UK? How much money does a family need in order to be above the poverty line? How has this changed over the years? How do basic benefit levels compare?

If so, our poverty line calculator is for you.

It's often complicated because the poverty line for a family varies depending on a family’s size and the age of family members. 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 propose a single, fixed amount of money a family needs to escape poverty.

How the calculator works

Our calculator allows you to explore where the official poverty line is for a given family type. By inputting some basic household details, you can see the poverty line for that family type in any year from 2000 to now. This is the weekly amount of money a family living on the poverty line would have left over after paying taxes and housing costs (such as rent or mortgage interest). The income of the average family of that type (adjusted median income) is also displayed.

The calculator then shows the basic weekly benefit entitlement for that family type and compares this to the poverty line and median income. You can choose to see the results with or without the benefit cap applied. You don’t have to enter a weekly rent amount, but doing so will make the benefit cap calculation more accurate.

The chart underneath shows how the family's basic benefit entitlement has changed year by year as a proportion of the poverty line and of median income.

Methodology

The 2000-2016 median income and poverty thresholds are based on the official ‘Households below average income (HBAI)’ statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions. Our calculator shows the poverty line based on 60% of contemporary median income after housing costs. The 2017 and 2018 thresholds are estimated by applying household disposable income growth figures published by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Assumptions

  • The calculator is a simplified model and is not intended to be used by claimants to calculate their benefit entitlements. Benefit rates shown are basic entitlements for out-of-work adults aged 18 to 60 with no other income or savings. The calculator does not show rates of support for working families, nor additions on account of disabilities.
  • Calculations are based on legacy benefits rather than Universal Credit, as most claimants are still currently on the old system. Entitlement levels are generally the same for out-of-work households under both systems, except in some cases. For example, single parents under 25 receive a lower amount under Universal Credit than under legacy benefits.
  • In order to more accurately apply the benefit cap, we assume that the household receives an amount of housing benefit equal to rent and the benefit cap is applied to the total benefits. The rent is then deducted at the end of the calculation to arrive at income after housing costs. 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.
  • The 'two-child limit' on child elements and abolition of the family element of tax credits have been applied from 2017. The calculator seeks to demonstrate how the benefits system looks in the long run. It is does not account for transitional arrangements that mean a family will currently receive these elements for all children born before 6 April 2017 if they claim legacy benefits or universal credit before February 2019. The ‘2-child limit’ will apply to all children of new universal credit claimants from February 2019.
  • 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. Child tax credit rates rather than income support child premiums are included from 2003.