Glasgow's major role in UK research into poverty and social exclusion

Published: 26 May 2010

The largest ever research project on Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom has been launched with the aim of finding solutions to help tackle poverty and deprivation.

The UK’s largest ever research project on Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom is launched today with the ultimate ambition of helping to find solutions to tackle the problems of poverty and deprivation.

Nick Bailey and Mark Livingston from the Department of Urban Studies will play a major role in the study.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the investigation will be led by a team of top flight researchers, who will examine trends from the past ten years.

The findings will identify the causes and outcomes of poverty and social exclusion and could have a significant impact on policies to improve the standard of living across the social divide.

The initiative, which will span three and a half years, is a major collaboration between the University of Bristol, Heriot-Watt University, the National Centre for Social Research, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, The Open University, Queen's University Belfast, University of Glasgow and the University of York. 

Professor David Gordon, Director of the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, said: “Billions of pounds are spent each year in the UK on trying to reduce poverty and yet poverty rates remain stubbornly and persistently higher than during the 1960s and 1970s. 

“Wages and benefits are too low and too much money and talent is wasted on ‘socially useless activities’ in the financial sector.  A radical re-think is needed on how to end poverty and exclusion once and for all.

This study will provide the kind of deep analysis that can inform the work of the new Government - and that of Frank Field MP, who has been invited to lead a review on levels of poverty and how it should be measured”

The research project will:

1. Improve the measurement of poverty, deprivation, social exclusion and standard of living.
2. Measure the change in the nature and extent of poverty and social exclusion over the past ten years. 
3. Produce policy-relevant results about the causes and outcomes of poverty and social exclusion and how best to address these problems.

The study is designed to provide robust results for Scotland, as well as for England and Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Nick Bailey, Department of Urban Studies, said: “There is a widespread impression that Scots have a more egalitarian outlook and that they are more concerned about poverty. In recent years, voting patterns in Scotland have certainly been quite different to those in England.

“This research will let us examine whether attitudes to poverty are different north of the border, and whether this has changed in the ten years since devolution.”

Mark Livingston, also Department of Urban Studies, said: “Government has placed a major emphasis on getting people into work as a means of getting them out of poverty. But there have been rising levels of in-work poverty in recent years and a concern that some people cycle between short spells in low paid, insecure employment and unemployment.

“We will be able to test how people’s experiences of work affect their risks of being in poverty in a much more detailed way than previously.”


1. The project builds on earlier work, including the 1999 Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey, and on established expertise in defining and measuring social exclusion at Bristol University’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Law.

2. Every decade since the late 1960s, UK social scientists have attempted to carry out an independent poverty survey to test out new ideas and incorporate current state of the art methods into UK poverty research.  The 1968-69 Poverty in the UK survey (Peter Townsend and colleagues), the 1983 Poor Britain and 1990 Breadline Britain surveys (Joanna Mack, Stewart Lansley and colleagues) and the 1999 Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey (Jonathan Bradshaw and colleagues) and its 2002 counterpart in Northern Ireland (Paddy Hillyard and colleagues), introduced new methods, ideas and techniques about poverty measurement and helped to keep UK academic research at the forefront of academic research.

3. Further details can be found at

4. For further information and interviews, contact:

a. David Gordon (Principal Investigator), 0117-9546761
b. Nick Bailey (University of Glasgow), 0141 330 3154
c. Glen Bramley (Heriot-Watt University),  0131 451 4605
d. Ruth Levitas (University of Bristol) 0117-9287506

Martin Shannon, Senior Media Relations Officer,
University of Glasgow Tel: 0141 330 8593

First published: 26 May 2010

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