The data on which Figure 6.1 is based are shown below.
The data on which Figure 6.2 is based are shown below, in Table A.2 and Table A.3.
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- See also http://inequalitiesblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/a-softening-of-attitudes/.
- ONS Labour Market Statistics, March 2014, Table A03 for people aged 15 to 59/64, seasonally adjusted (www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-301417, accessed 15/4/2014).
- www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/george-osbornes-speech-conservative-conference-full-text, accessed 20/3/2014.
- See Baumberg et al. (in preparation) for a discussion of other scenario questions asked in previous BSA surveys, involving an unemployed single mother and a retired woman.
- Survey respondents respond to the first three statements using a five-point response scale including a mid-point “neither agree nor disagree”, while the fourth statement has a four-point scale.
- In a TUC poll, people said (i) that an unemployed couple with two children would have substantially less than they ‘need to live on … without luxuries’, but (ii) that they nevertheless would be worse off if one of them took 30hrs/wk of a minimum wage job. Again, this implies that people do not regard a minimum wage job as sufficient to live on (www.tuc.org.uk/social/tuc-21796-f0.cfm, accessed 17/4/2014; this data is analysed further in Baumberg et al. in Preparation).
- www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/9354163/David-Camerons-welfare-speech-in-full.html, accessed 2/4/2014.
- We have followed the approach of the Resolution Foundation in focusing on working-age people, given that real incomes among pensioners have continued to rise while incomes among working-age households have been static (Office for National Statistics, 2013). The Resolution Foundation’s definition of the ‘squeezed middle’ is of people in households below average (median) income, excluding both the poorest 10 per cent and ‘benefit-reliant’ households (those that receive more than 20 per cent of their income from means-tested benefits, excluding tax credits). The definition here differs primarily due to the restricted income measure available in British Social Attitudes, which is banded (making it hard to exclude the poorest 10 per cent in a consistent way) and does not take into account the different sizes of households (known as ‘equivalising’).
- Note that British Social Attitudes only includes information on raw household income, rather than equivalised income which takes account of household size. Therefore, those struggling on seemingly high incomes may have large households or other dependents outside of the household.
- In the second half of the chapter, I look twice at the differences between those who say they are struggling financially vs. those living comfortably – the first time just looking at 2013, and the second time looking at how these differences have changed 2000–2013. In both cases, the results are presented using regression adjusted percentages, having ‘controlled’ for respondents’ age, gender, and education. This note explains how this ‘controlling’ was conducted.
The underlying logic between these comparisons is simple – they look at the average effect of these controls on the outcome, and then look at the association of financial struggles with the outcome, net of the average effects of the controls. In practice, because the outcomes were all categorical variables, we use multinomial logit models with dummy variables for age (dummies for 25–34, 35–44, 45–54, 55–59 and 60–64 (men only) vs. aged 18–24 as the base category), gender (female vs. male as the base category), and education (degree, greater than A level but less than degree, less than A level qualifications vs. no qualifications as the base category).
Regression coefficients for categorical data are difficult to interpret, so to make these results easier to understand, we present the results in terms of the estimated percentage point differences across the sample (technically known as average marginal effects). It is these average marginal effects that are shown in the tables in the main part of the chapter, but the full regression tables for the models are available from the author’s website www.benbaumberg.com.
- British Social Attitudes also asks people how they define poverty. People were asked “Would you say someone in Britain was or was not in poverty …” in three situations. Few people (19 per cent) agree that poverty is where people “had enough to buy the things they really needed, but not enough to buy the things most people take for granted”. About half (47 per cent) agree that poverty is where people “had enough to eat and live, but not enough to buy other things they needed”. And nearly everyone agrees (87 per cent) that someone is in poverty “if they had not got enough to eat and live without getting into debt”. In Table 6.6, we control for whether people agree with each of these statements, and then look at whether people who perceive more vs. less poverty have different attitudes to the benefits system.
- For example, these patterns might reflect the fact that people who are struggling financially, or think that many other British people are, might have different expectations about living standards (Hills, 2001), or that they have other features of their lives (such as disabilities) that make them simultaneously more likely to struggle financially and more positive about the benefits system. It might even be the case that people’s beliefs about the benefits system – or their wider political beliefs – cause them to think differently about financial struggles, given evidence that people are much more receptive to information and ideas that fit with their pre-existing beliefs (Jerit and Barabas, 2012).
- Question on feelings about household income: 2010–2013
Which of these phrases on this card would you say comes closest to your feelings about your household’s income these days?
1. Living really comfortably on present income
2. Living comfortably on present income
3. Neither comfortable nor struggling on present income
4. Struggling on present income
5. Really struggling on present income
Question on feelings about household income: Pre 2010
Which of these phrases comes closest to your feelings about your household’s income these days?
1. Living comfortably on present income
2. Coping on present income
3. Finding it difficult on present income
4. Finding it very difficult on present income
- Comparable data on benefit claimants is only available from 1995, but we can look at longer-run trends if we look at the full population. The 2009 level of financial difficulties (21 per cent) is higher than any year since 1996 in the full population, but lower than any year between 1984 and 1995 (where it reached a high of 29 per cent in 1985). Likewise, perceptions of poverty hit a high in the pre-1995 period; in 1994 71 per cent believed there was quite a lot of poverty in Britain and 68 per cent believed that poverty had increased over the past ten years (up from 55 per cent and 51 per cent respectively in 1986).
- This question asked:
Over the last ten years, do you think that poverty in Britain has been increasing, decreasing or staying at about the same level?
- There has been a decline in the proportion believing that people are in poverty if “they had enough to eat and live, but not enough to buy other things they needed”.
Data shown here:
The change in people’s definitions of poverty is one possible explanation for why the rise in people’s contemporaneous perceptions of poverty (where definitions have changed) is less marked than the rise in people’s perception that poverty has increased in the past ten years (where people are making comparisons over time within whatever definition of poverty they prefer). See also Hills, 2001 for an in-depth discussion of these questions in the British Social Attitudes survey.
The findings here are similar to Ipsos MORI polling that asks people to describe how well they are “keeping up with their bills and credit commitments at the moment”. In 2006, 12 per cent of people said either they were “keeping up with all bills and commitments, but it is a constant struggle” or that they were “falling behind with some/many bills or credit commitments”, but by 2013 this has risen to 19 per cent (Money Advice Trust 2013 report and 2006 FSA baseline survey).
A similar question is also asked in the major survey that follows a representative sample of British people over time (the British Household Panel Survey until 2008, Understanding Society afterwards), which asks respondents how ‘you yourself are doing financially these days’. The British Household Panel Survey finds a slight rise in the people saying they are finding it (quite/very) difficult from six per cent in 2001–2007 to 7.5 per cent in 2008 (Measuring National Well-Being: Life in the UK, 2014: Table 6.4). However, Understanding Society then shows a decline (12 per cent to 11 per cent) in the new survey more recently, from 12.3 per cent in 2009/10 to 10.9 per cent in 2011/12. This seems likely to be because a certain number of people drop out of longitudinal surveys every year (particularly towards the start of the survey), making them a less robust way of looking at what the British population think than the British Social Attitudes series.
For the question on whether many dole claimants are fiddling, the change 2010–2013 is only just non-significant at conventional levels (p<0.07), and the combined trend 2000–2009 + 2010–2013 is significant (p<0.05).
While not covered in any detail in this chapter for reasons of space, other signs of softening looking at 2012 and 2013 British Social Attitudes data are that (i) there has been a rise in people thinking that it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure a decent standard of living for the unemployed (see the 2013 British Social Attitudes report); and (ii) there has been a rise in agreeing that “cutting welfare benefits would damage too many people’s lives” (a rise in agreement from 42% in 2011 to 47% in 2012 and effectively unchanged at 46% in 2013). More puzzlingly, though, there has been a decline in the proportion of people agreeing that ‘Large numbers of people who are eligible for benefits these days fail to claim them’ (from 77% in 2010 to 74% in 2012 and 69% in 2013).
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