Poverty in Edwardian Britain

20 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2011

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

Date Written: January 4, 2011


This article introduces a newly discovered household budget data set for 1904. We use these data to estimate urban poverty among working families in the British Isles. Applying Bowley's poverty line, we estimate that at least 23 per cent of people in urban working households and 18 per cent of working households had income insufficient to meet minimum needs. This is well above Rowntree's estimate of primary poverty for York in 1899 and high in the range that Bowley found in northern towns in 1912-13. The skill gradient of poverty is steep; for instance, among labourers' households, the poverty rates are close to 50 per cent. Measures of the depth of poverty are relatively low in the data, suggesting that most poor male-headed working households were close to meeting Bowley's new standard.

Suggested Citation

Gazeley, Ian and Newell, Andrew T., Poverty in Edwardian Britain (January 4, 2011). The Economic History Review, Vol. 64, Issue 1, pp. 52-71, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1735237 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0289.2009.00523.x

Ian Gazeley (Contact Author)

University of Sussex ( email )

Sussex House
Brighton, Sussex BNI 9RH
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/history/profile985.html

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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