Scotland vs England (in poverty stats) – you can't tackle poverty with high housing costs

Trying to tackle poverty is significantly harder if housing costs are high, says Gordon Hector, as he compares poverty statistics in England and Scotland.

It's 6 Nations season, so I am naturally thinking a lot about England Vs Scotland. And leafing through our recent report looking at poverty trends in Scotland, one thing stands out compared with the situation south of the border: housing.

For the latest available statistics (DWP's Households below average income, 2010/11), in England the relative child poverty rate excluding housing costs was 19%. In Scotland it was also 19%.

That picture changes somewhat if you factor in housing costs – which given housing costs are pretty much unavoidable, is generally a sensible thing to do. The relative child poverty rate in Scotland, after housing costs, is 21%. In England, it's 28%.

That's mostly because housing in England became more expensive. In 2001, housing costs for the poorest 50% of people England were 10% higher than in Scotland. By 2011, that had increased to 25%.

The reasons for this divergence is a subject probably worthy of a blogpost in its own right – though some combination of demographics (England’s population has grown faster than Scotland's, England has seen higher immigration, Scotland is ageing faster) and policies (planning rules, housing funding, etc) must be part of it.

The result, at least, is pretty clear. Trying to tackle poverty is significantly harder if housing costs are high.