Poverty in Scotland
National and Official Statistics published
Statistics indicate poverty and inequality slowly rising in Scotland in recent years.
Statistics show the incomes of poorer households fell further behind those of middle income households in recent years, pushing more people into poverty.
Overall poverty rates have been relatively stable over the last decade with some fluctuations year on year. However in recent years, rising poverty rates alongside other indicators suggest low income households - especially households with children - are falling further behind those on middle incomes. Over the three-year period 2014-17, one million people in Scotland (each year) were in relative poverty after they had paid their housing costs.
- In 2014-17, 16% of people in Scotland were living in relative poverty, before housing costs, approximately 860,000 people each year. This compares to 15% in 2013-16 and suggests a slowly rising trend since the all-time low in 2011-14.
- After housing costs, 19% of people in Scotland were living in relative poverty in 2014-17, representing one million people each year. This is the same poverty rate as in 2013-16, but remained higher than previous years.
- Between 2012 and 2016, 8% of people in Scotland were in persistent poverty before housing costs, or living in poverty for three or more of the four years. This rate was the same before and after housing costs.
Trends in child poverty are more complex. The latest estimates signal relative child poverty and in-work poverty for children continue to rise before and after housing costs, but absolute poverty and the combined low income and material deprivation rate for children have remained broadly stable, and persistent poverty appears to have fallen.
- Over the three-year period 2014-17, 19% of children in Scotland, approximately 180,000 each year, were living in relative poverty before housing costs. This compares to 17% in 2013-16. After housing costs, 24% of children in Scotland were living in relative poverty in 2014-17, approximately 230,000 children. This compares to 23% in 2013-16.
- In-work poverty showed a long term rising trend since 2007-10 which continued in 2014-17 with two thirds of children in in-work poverty (both before and after housing costs), living in households with at least one member in paid work.
- Absolute child poverty had been falling for a long time and was broadly stable in recent years, with 15% of children in absolute poverty before housing costs in 2014-17, and 22% after housing costs, both rates the same as in the previous three-year period.
- In 2014-17, 10% of children were living in combined low income (before housing costs) and material deprivation, compared to 11% in 2013-16. After housing costs, 12% of children were living in combined low income and material deprivation, compared to 13% in 2013-16. Further data will be required to clarify whether this is a longer term trend.
- Persistent poverty rates were higher for children compared to other age groups. Before housing costs, 9% of children in Scotland were in persistent poverty between 2012 and 2016, compared to 10% in the previous period. After housing costs, in 2012-16 10% of children were in persistent poverty, compared to 14% in the previous period. Further data will be required to clarify whether this is a longer term trend.
- Single-year estimates of child poverty that will be required for reporting as part of the Child Poverty Act are provided in data tables in the publication.
Pensioner poverty and material deprivation present a mixed picture as well. Relative poverty for pensioners had been stable at a lower level than the other age groups for several years and may have started to rise in recent years. Pensioner material deprivation on the other hand appears to have fallen.
- Relative pensioner poverty before housing cost was 17% (170,000 pensioners each year) in the three-year period 2014-17, compared to 16% in 2013-16. After housing costs, relative pensioner poverty was 13% (140,000 pensioners each year), compared to 12% in the previous three-year period.
- Pensioner material deprivation was 6% in 2014-17 (60,000 pensioners each year), compared to 7% in 2013-2016.
Poverty by gender, disability and ethnicity: In the three-year period 2014-17, poverty rates for single adult women were higher than for single adult men, whether or not they had children. Poverty rates for minority ethnic groups were higher than for the white ethnic group. Poverty rates for families with a disabled family member were higher than for families with nobody in the family was disabled.
Income inequality has continued to rise in the three-year period 2014-17. The top ten per cent of households saw larger increases compared to lower income households. This resulted in low income households falling behind those in the middle and even further behind those at the top.
The full statistical publications are available online:
The Poverty in Scotland publication contains information on poverty and income inequality statistics for Scotland. The data comes from the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Family Resources Survey, Households Below Average Income dataset. Comparable UK income and poverty figures are published on the same day by DWP.
In this year’s Poverty in Scotland update, the data is presented for the first time as three-year averages of each estimate. Single year estimates are still available in the associated tables. Single year estimates are best used for understanding the current situation, whereas trends over time are better identified using three-year estimates.
The Persistent Poverty in Scotland publication presents estimates of how many people in Scotland live in persistent poverty. The data comes from the Understanding Society Survey.
Key poverty measures:
- Relative poverty: A household is in relative poverty if its income is below 60% of the middle household income in the UK (the poverty threshold). Relative poverty is a measure of whether the income of the poorest households are keeping pace with middle income households across the UK.
- Absolute poverty: A household is in absolute poverty if its income is below the poverty threshold from 2010/11. This way, it measures whether the incomes of the poorest households are keeping pace with rising prices.
- Combined low income and material deprivation identifies the number of children in families that cannot afford basic essential goods and services because of a low income (below 70% of the middle household income).
- Persistent poverty identifies the number of people in relative poverty for three or more out of four years. People who live in poverty for several years are affected by it through their lifetime.
This publication presents poverty figures before and after housing costs. Before housing costs figures are a basic measure of household income from earnings and benefits. After housing costs figures subtract spending on rents, mortgage interest payments and other unavoidable housing costs from this basic income.
Further information on income and poverty statistics within Scotland is available online.
Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff – more information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland can be assessed online.