The End of Destitution

37 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2009

See all articles by Ian Gazeley

Ian Gazeley

University of Sussex

Andrew Newell

University of Sussex - School of Social Sciences & Cultural Studies; IZA Institute of Labor Economics


The paper presents a statistical generalisation, to working families in the whole of Britain, of Rowntree's finding that absolute poverty declined dramatically in York between 1899 and 1936. We use poverty lines devised by contemporary social investigators and two relatively newly-discovered data sets. We estimate an almost complete elimination of absolute poverty among working households for the whole of the Britain between 1904 and 1937. We offer a number of pieces of corroborative evidence that give support to our findings. We decompose the poverty reduction into the effects of two proximate causes, of roughly equal importance, the decline in family size and the rise of real wages. We conclude with some speculation about the deeper causes of the decline.

Keywords: poverty, living standards, Britain, demographic change, real wage growth

JEL Classification: N3, O12

Suggested Citation

Gazeley, Ian and Newell, Andrew T., The End of Destitution. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4295. Available at SSRN:

Ian Gazeley (Contact Author)

University of Sussex ( email )

Sussex House
Brighton, Sussex BNI 9RH
United Kingdom


Andrew T. Newell

University of Sussex - School of Social Sciences & Cultural Studies ( email )

Falmer, Brightonm BN1 9QN
United Kingdom
+44 (0)1273 606755 (Phone)
+44 (0)1273 673563 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

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