Over recent years the poverty rate for pensioners, working-age adults and children has remained relatively flat, but over the last decade and within the working-age group young adults have experienced a sharp increase in poverty.

In 2013/14, 14 per cent of pensioners were living in low-income households, compared with 21 per cent of working-age adults and 28 per cent of children. None of these rates have changed significantly in the last year.

But over a longer time period a substantial shift becomes clear. At the start of the 2000s, pensioners were markedly more likely to be in poverty than working-age adults – 26 per cent compared with 19 per cent. At the start of the 1990s, they were more likely to be in poverty than children were, with a pensioner poverty rate of 38 per cent compared with a child poverty rate of 31 per cent.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s pensioner poverty fell sharply, while child poverty has fallen slowly and unevenly and working-age poverty in the 2000s has risen. Comparatively there has been little change in these poverty rates in the 2010s.

For adults aged under 55 the poverty rate in the three years to 2013/14 was higher than a decade earlier. But the largest increases were among younger working-age adults aged 16–19 and 20–24, rising by 6 and 4 percentage points respectively. These age groups now have the highest poverty rates of all adults at 34 per cent for 16 to 19-year-olds and 29 per cent for 20 to 24-year-olds.

For all age groups from over 60 the poverty rate in 2013/14 was lower than in 2003/04. The most substantial falls were among the oldest, with a fall of more than ten percentage points among each of the groups aged 70 and up.

In 2003/04 the poverty rate was highest for the younger and older adults, with those aged in their 40s and 50s with the lowest rates. In 2013/14, this trend is different: the youngest adults still have the highest poverty rates; it was lower for those of middle-age but it was lower still for people in their 60s and 70s.

Indicator: 7A

Indicator: 7B

About the indicator

The first graph shows the long-term trend in the proportion of children, pensioners and working-age adults in poverty.

The second graph shows the proportion of adults in poverty in each five-year age group. It compares data for the three years to 2003/04 and 2013/14 (three-year averages are used to improve accuracy).

Both graphs use income measured after housing costs.

Reliability rating: the second graph is very reliable, but the first uses some historic data that is less robust than more recent series. Data before 1993 used the Family Expenditure Survey, a smaller sample than the Households Below Average Income dataset used since. Some of the more notable patterns in that earlier period should be viewed with this in mind.

Next up on money

More on this report