UK Poverty rate by region

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Scotland has a slightly lower rate of poverty (19%) than England (22%) and Wales (23%) and around the same rate as Northern Ireland (18%).

Housing costs are a key factor in the lower rate of poverty; renters in Scotland disproportionately live in the lower-cost social rented sector (59% of renters are in social rented, compared with 45% of renters in the rest of the UK). Social renters in Scotland also have lower rents, with low-income renters spending on average (median) £83 a week on housing costs compared with an average of £102 in England and £101 in Wales.

Wales has the highest poverty rate among the four nations, with almost one in four (23%) people in poverty. This is driven by the relatively high proportions of working-age adults out of work (25%) or working typically lower-paid ‘routine’ jobs (32% of in-work

Northern Ireland has the lowest poverty rate (18%) of the four nations, despite having rates of worklessness, low-paid employment and uptake of Universal Credit or equivalent (legacy) benefits comparable to Wales, the North of England and the West Midlands which have much higher poverty rates. The trend of lower poverty rates in Northern Ireland is partly explained predominantly by the lower cost of housing, with the proportion of people living in rented accommodation the lowest of the four nations, and with the average weekly housing costs paid by low-income social and private renting households the lowest of anywhere in the UK at on average (median) £76 and £98 respectively, compared with on average £100 and £131 respectively for the rest of the UK. Even for those buying with a mortgage, weekly housing costs (the definition for which excludes mortgage principal) are substantially lower in NI than on average across the UK, reflecting the substantially lower house prices which require less borrowing and, consequently, lower levels of mortgage interest.

The poverty rate in England for 2017–20 was 22%. The following section breaks down analysis of the poverty rate by region in England.

London has the highest rate of poverty, with over one in four (27%) people in poverty. A predominant driver of this is tenure mix and the high cost of housing; over half of Londoners live in rented accommodation, of whom four in ten are in poverty, with half of these in poverty only after housing costs. London also has a much larger Black, Asian and minority ethnic population than other regions with over a third (34%) of households in London headed by someone from these ethnic groups, compared with fewer than one in ten (7%) outside London. The poverty rate is much higher for households headed by someone of Black, Asian or minority ethnic group ethnicity (38%) than for white households (19%), driven in part by the high proportions who live and rent in areas of high housing costs (including London), by family types and compositions (disproportionately younger and with children, much less likely to be pension age), and by the employment rates, levels of wages and employment dynamic of households (less likely to be in work, more likely to have lower wages, multi-adult working-age households being less likely to have all adults in work).

Regions in the south of England (South West, South East and East of England), have among the lowest poverty rates at 19%, or one in five people. These regions have above average proportions of working-age adults in work, with those in work typically working in higher paid managerial and professional jobs. The rates of poverty among renters are also slightly lower than in other regions, as many are on higher incomes, but a greater proportion of the renters who are in poverty are in poverty only after housing costs (between 46-50%) driven by the higher costs of renting in these regions. The table above, which sets out the poverty rates before and after housing costs, reflects how the higher costs of housing in London and the south are disproportionately drivers of poverty in these regions. The North West (22%) and East Midlands (20%) have poverty rates close to the national average.

Poverty rates are high in the North East (25%), West Midlands (25%) and Yorkshire and Humberside (24%). In these areas the high poverty rates are driven by comparatively lower earnings, with a higher proportion (33%) of in-work adults in lower-paid ‘routine’ occupations compared with the rest of the UK (27%) and a higher proportion of working-age adults not in work (27%, compared with 23% for the rest of the UK on average). Reflecting the role of Universal Credit and equivalent legacy benefits in topping-up low incomes and providing support for those out of work, these regions also have an above average proportion of people in working-age families in receipt of these benefits (22% compared with 16% across the rest of UK).

The data presented here is from our 2022 UK Poverty report, setting out the trends and impacts of poverty across the UK. Read the full report at UK Poverty 2022.