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Poverty across ethnic groups through recession and austerity


Existing evidence since the 1990s has established that most ethnic minority groups have lower average household incomes and higher poverty rates than the White majority population. Researchers have investigated the causes for these differences by comparing wage differentials, employment gaps and occupational segregation across different groups.

It is now well established that some ethnic minority groups are better off than others: Chinese and Indian groups, for instance, enjoy higher income and lower unemployment in comparison with people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origins.

All of this research into poverty and economic well-being among ethnic minority groups in the UK however predates the recent period of recession and austerity, however. As recessions may not affect all ethnic groups equally, and it is likely that ethnic minorities have fared worse than the white majority population empirical evidence is needed for this period.

At the same time, lack of suitable data has restricted investigation into another major aspect of economic vulnerability among ethnic minority groups; poverty persistence.

Project aims

The study will provide evidence on the incidence of poverty, within group income inequality and poverty persistence for different ethnic minority groups during the recent period of recession and austerity in the UK.

It is widely known that some ethnic groups are heterogeneous and so this project will also investigate whether there are significant differences for sub-groups (within ethnic groups) based on age, gender, education, household composition, employment status, disability status and (migrant) generation.

The researchers will investigate which ethnic groups, and which type of individuals within different ethnic groups, are more likely to escape poverty. As a result, it will inform policy by identifying the most vulnerable groups.

Researchers will then analyse the composition of household income to determine which sources of income has been the most affected by the recession and austerity measures.

Finally, this project will complement the analysis of income-based well-being measures by using measures of material deprivation as income based measures of poverty and deprivation have been criticised for not reflecting the living standards at a point in time, particularly for those who do not have steady incomes.

Data sources and methods

This project will use data from the Family Resources Survey (FRS) 2008–2012 to compare incidence of income based poverty and material deprivation, within group income inequality, composition of household income across different ethnic groups and sub-groups.

The project will use data from the first three waves of Understanding Society to compare two and three year poverty persistence across different ethnic groups and to identify within those groups the types of individuals who are most likely to remain in poverty across years. Income data across the two surveys will be compared.

All analysis will use weights to account for unequal selection probability and non-response/attrition and take into account the sample design of the surveys used.

Team members

Dr Alita Nandi

Research Fellow - ISER - University of Essex

Working jointly with Dr Paul Fisher on data preparation, analysis and report writing

Dr Paul Fisher

Senior Research Officer - ISER - University of Essex

Working jointly with Dr Alita Nandi on data preparation, analysis and report writing.

Professor Mike Brewer

Professor of Economics, Director of MiSoC - ISER - University of Essex

Professor Brewer will advise on analysis

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Photo credit: Tom Blackwell