Living Standards

London's Poverty Profile is divided into five themes: 

  • People; 
  • Living standards;
  • Housing;
  • Work, worklessness and benefits; and 
  • Shared opportunities. 

Each one provides insights into a range of different indicators of poverty and inequality across London, drawing comparisons over time, between different boroughs and with the rest of the country.

The Living Standards theme focuses most heavily on poverty, demonstrating how hard it is for Londoners to translate their earnings, benefits and assets into wellbeing. It also looks at wider indicators of living standards, including life expectancy and health.

Living Standards: Indicators

These maps show data from our London borough comparison tile.

Boroughs have been labelled higher, lower, or mid (average) according to threshold values of one standard deviation above or below the mean of all the borough values.

Change in hourly gross earnings by income decile (2017-2019)

In both London and the rest of England, growth in hourly earnings between 2017 and 2019 was fastest for the bottom 10% of jobs; increasing by 4.6% in the capital and 5% in the rest of England. This rise was likely driven by the increase in the minimum and living wages. The National Living Wage (paid to workers over 25) increased from £7.50 an hour in 2017/18 to £8.21 an hour in 2019. 

In London, weekly and annual earnings rose fastest for the highest 10% of jobs. This is particularly true for annual pay (which includes bonuses) which rose by 4% in the two years to 2019 for the top 10%, compared to 1.1% for the bottom 10% and only 0.1% for the 4th decile.

The figures presented here are adjusted for inflation, meaning that for all deciles in both London and the rest of England, earnings increased at least as fast as the cost of living. This …

Proportion of children in poverty before and after housing costs by London borough (2019/20)

This indicator shows the large disparity in poverty rates for children in different London boroughs. Tower Hamlets is the borough with the highest rate of child poverty (after housing costs), with a rate (56%) which is more than three times as high as that of the boroughs of Richmond (17%) and City of London (13%) with the lowest rates.

It also demonstrates the large impact that the cost of housing has on poverty in the capital. In the borough with the highest poverty levels (Tower Hamlets), 28% of children are classified as being in poverty before housing costs are considered. Taking account of housing costs increases this figure to 56%.

The child poverty rate at least doubles when housing costs are accounted for in 26 of the 33 boroughs, and even the borough with the lowest gap between before and after housing costs (Barking and Dagenham…

E-food Desert Index (2020)

The E-food Desert Index (EFDI) is a composite index which measures accessibility to groceries, recently co-published by the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) in conjunction with Dr Andy Newing at the University of Leeds. The index looks at:

  • Proximity and density of grocery retail stores
  • Transport time and distance
  • Public transport accessibility
  • Demographic characteristics of neighbourhoods which affect food access (car availability, income poverty)
  • Online grocery retailer availability and propensity for online shopping.

The index and map identify a new driver of inequalities in access to groceries - 'e-food deserts' - which are remoter parts of the capital that suffer comparatively poor access to both physical retail and limited provision of online grocery services.

The map shown here is excerpted for London, based on the wider ind…

English Index of Multiple Deprivation (rebased for London) (2019)

Deprivation varies significantly across London, and, to truly understand the diversity of deprivation across the city, it is useful to adapt national indices to compare within just London itself, excluding variations outside the capital. Mapped here are the deciles of neighbourhoods in London as defined by the Index of Multiple Deprivation, which integrates deprivation domains relating to income, employment, crime, living environment, education, health and barriers to housing and services, in various proportions, to produce an overall index.

Every neighbourhood in England has been given a deprivation score based on various measures which form each domain above, integrated together in various proportions to produce a single value. They are then ranked for England. We have taken these rankings and rebased, by excluding all non-London areas …

Key findings

  • Clear inner vs outer London divide with lower levels throughout most of the outer boroughs, particularly Havering, Bexley and Bromley (with the exception of Kingston upon Thames)
  • Highest levels of gentrification seen along riverside developments in the Lea Valley and the Thames Estuary
  • Clear north/south split in Waltham Forest and east/west split in Haringey

The Runnymede Trust and CLASS recently published a report funded by us - Pushed to the Margins: A Quantitative Analysis of Gentrification in London in the 2010s. The report presents a small area analysis of social/population changes related to the phenomenon of 'gentrification' that has impacted various areas in London, some very significantly, in the last decade.

Simply put, gentrification is where an area rapidly changes its population, caused by an influx of weal…

Indexed gross weekly pay in London and England (2002-2021)

At its lowest point in 2014, jobs at the 10th percentile of gross weekly pay in London had weekly pay of almost 16% lower (in real terms) than in 2008. This compares to a just above 6.5% fall for those at the 10th percentile in England overall. 

Pay for these jobs in London were still 8.3% lower in real terms than their 2008 level in 2020. In 2021, we see an increase in weekly pay which leaves it 4.9% below the level in 2008. Within London, only the top 90th percentile have not experienced the slight increase in weekly earnings between 2020 and 2021. Data from 2021 represents an average  across the three financial years – two of which pre-date COVID-19 and therefore do not reflect the true impact of the pandemic. 

The volatility of weekly earnings across the years should be acknowledged. When looking at the change in weekly earnings within…

London households affected by the benefit cap (2014-2021 Q3)

The benefit cap limits the amount of benefit that most working-age people can receive. In London, the limit is £23,000 per year or £15,410 for single adults with no children; this was reduced in 2015. The benefit cap is applied by either reducing Universal Credit or Housing Benefit (for those not claiming Universal Credit).

The benefit cap reduced the benefits of 39,573 more London families in August 2021 compared to August 2019 (pre-pandemic). This means that the number of families with their benefits capped in London has tripled in the last two years. 

A possible explanation for this unprecedented increase could be the influx of new households on Universal Credit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the additional £20 pound per week for those on Universal Credit could place households in a position where their benefits …

London boroughs' median income deprivation ranking relative to London and rest of England (2019)

The typical neighbourhood in 24 (of 32) London boroughs is more income-deprived than the typical neighbourhood in England.

This indicator assesses this by comparing the average (median) income deprivation in each borough to the average income deprivation of London overall and the rest of England through a relative deprivation ratio. Boroughs close to the red line have similar average income deprivation levels to the comparison. If they are to the left of the line, they are less income-deprived and if they are to the right of the line they are more income-deprived. 

Tower Hamlets is on average the most income-deprived in comparison to the other London boroughs. The average neighbourhood in the borough is 2.03 times more income-deprived than the average in London, and 2.67 times more income-deprived than the average in the rest of England. O…

Proportion of total net and gross income before housing costs held in each decile (2019/20)

Those in the bottom half of the net income distribution in London take home less than a quarter (23.1%) of London’s total net income (before housing costs). On its own, the top decile of London households takes home 33.4% of total net income.

The impact of redistribution through the tax and benefit system can also be seen in this chart; the top decile holds a lower proportion of total net income (33.4%), than it does of gross income (38.2%). In contrast, the bottom decile of London households hold 1.6% of total gross income but 1.8% of total net income. 

Compared to London, the top decile in the rest of England holds a lower proportion of total net (26.6%) and gross income (30.42). Those in the bottom decile in the rest of England, in both total net and gross income, hold a larger proportion than in London (2.6% and 2.5%, respectively).

Net income inequality before housing costs (1996/97 - 2019/20)

This indicator shows one way of measuring income inequality; the 90:10 net income ratio. This compares the net income (before housing costs) of those at the 90th net income percentile with those at the 10th net income percentile. A higher figure means that inequality is higher.

In 2019/20 those in the 90th net income percentile in London took home 10.8 times more than those in the 10th net income percentile (a 90:10 net income ratio of 10.5). In the rest of England the 90:10 net income ratio is 5.3.

Net income inequality has risen gradually in London over the last 20 years. In contrast, it has been relatively stable in England overall.

This means that the gap between the rich and poor in London and the rest of England is much larger today than it was two decades ago. In 1996/97, the gap between London’s 90:10 net income ratio and that of th…

Material deprivation of children in London (2019/20)

More children are materially deprived in London than the rest of England whether or not they are in poverty. Material deprivation is based on a weighted score of responses to questions about what material things - such as a warm winter coat or a safe outdoors space to play - children go without.

In 2019/20, just over two in five (41%) of children living in households in poverty in London are classed as materially deprived (down slightly from 45% in 2018/19), compared with 37% in the rest of England (unchanged). For children who do not live in households in poverty, the proportion of materially deprived children is 11% in London and 10% in the rest of England.

More than half (51%) of children in London in poverty went without a holiday away from home for at least one week a year with their family, the highest rate for any item or activity.

80:20 hourly wage ratio by London borough (2021 and 2011)

There are many ways of measuring pay inequality. This indicator considers the 80:20 hourly wage ratio, which shows how much greater hourly pay is for those at the 80th percentile of the hourly pay distribution than for those at the 20th percentile. The larger the ratio, the more unequal hourly pay.

Based on this measure, pay inequality is higher in London than in England. Whilst this was also true in 2011, the gap between the two has grown over the decade. In London, the 80:20 pay ratio is 2.64, meaning that hourly wages at the 80th percentile are 2.64 times larger than at the 20th percentile. In England, the 80:20 ratio is 1.94. 

Amongst the London boroughs where valid data are available, Kingston has the highest level of pay inequality ratio of 3 in 2021. On the other side of the spectrum, Sutton has the lowest pay inequality ratio of 2.…

Poverty rates in London (by small area) (2014)

This map shows poverty rate estimates after housing costs for areas known as middle-layer super output areas (MSOAs). These are relatively small areas with an average population of 7,200. These statistics are experimental and so should be considered as indicative rather than definitive, but reveal interesting trends. 

Overall the map shows the large disparity of poverty outcomes both across and within London boroughs. The most concentrated areas of high poverty are in areas such as Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham, and the north east of London. There are also noticeable pockets of high poverty rates in areas in west London, such as in Brent and the north ends of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster.

Only six MSOAs have a poverty rate below 10% in London, all in Outer London boroughs, whilst nine MSOAs have a poverty rate above 45%. Refle…

Proportion of Londoners in poverty in families with and without disabled persons (2009/10, 2014/15, and 2019/2020)

Londoners who live in families that include a disabled person are more likely to be in poverty than those living in families that do not include a disabled person. In the 3 years to 2019/20, 35% of families that included a disabled person were in poverty compared to 25% of those without a disabled household member.

This gap has not changed in a meaningful way over the decade examined here.

Proportion of households in poverty by family type (2019-20)

Poverty rates amongst most household types in London are higher than in the rest of England. For example, the poverty rate for couple pensioners (23%) in London is almost twice that of couple pensioners (13%) in the rest of England. Similarly, 28% of couples with children are in poverty in London compared to 21% in the rest of England. Couples without children have similar poverty rates in both London (12%) and the rest of England (13%).

Single parents with children are more likely to be in poverty than any other type of household. Half of single parents in London (50%) were in poverty, more than four times the proportion of couples without children.

Poverty for children, pensioners and working-age adults (2009/2010 and 2019/2020)

Children, working age adults and pensioners all have higher rates of poverty in London than in the rest of England. Of the three age groups, children have the highest poverty rates, with 38% of children in London in poverty in 2019/20, compared to 24% of working-age adults and 25% of pensioners. 

In both London and the rest of England, poverty rates fell between 2009/10 and 2010/20 for children and working-age adults in the rest of England, although, poverty rates remained flat for children in the rest of England at 29%. Also, the poverty rate for pensioners rose in London but remained flat in the rest of England. 

Proportions of people in poverty before and after housing costs (2019/20)

The difference between poverty rates before and after housing costs shows how much of an impact housing costs have on poverty.

In London, poverty rates almost double when housing costs are accounted for (increasing the poverty rate from 16% to 28%). In the rest of England, the difference is much smaller (increasing poverty rates from 17% to 21%). This shows that, compared to the rest of England, high housing costs are a much more significant driver of poverty in London.

Put another way, this means that accounting for the high housing costs in the capital leads to over one million more people being judged to be in poverty.

Proportion of Londoners in poverty after housing costs by age band (2019/20)

In both London and the rest of England, poverty rates (after housing costs) are highest amongst children and young people in 2019/20. 

In London:

  • Under a quarter of a million (220,000) children aged four and under live in households in poverty;
  • More than a third of children aged up to 14 are in households in poverty (35% of those aged 0-4, 36% of those aged 5-9 and 41% of those aged 10-14); and
  • Two out of five 15 to 19 year-olds (41%) live in households that are in poverty. 

In contrast, one in five Londoners aged 25-29 (19%) live in households that are in poverty - the lowest rate for any age group. 

Poverty rates in London are higher than those in the rest of England for people of all ages. 

The impacts of housing costs on poverty in the capital can again be seen by comparing these findings to those from measures of poverty before housing cos…

How much weekly income is needed to not be in poverty?

Household types Minimum Income Standard - Inner London (AHC), 2020 Minimum Income Standard - Outer London (AHC), 2020 UK poverty line - After Housing Costs, 2020 Destitution, 2020
Single, working-age £276 £253 £141 £70
Couple, working-age £379 £408 £244 £105
Single, pensioner £212 £188 £141 NA
Couple, pensioner £393 £325 £244 NA
Lone parent, one child (aged one) £297 £315 £190 £95
Couple with two children (aged three and seven) £514 £532 £346 £145

Note: MIS figures are updated to reflect the report produced by Loughborough University for TfL in 2029. For family types where updates are not available we have carried forward the 2016/17 data and adjusted for inflation by CPIH. Destitution is defined by the JRF as people who went without 2 or more essentials in the past month because they couldn't afford them, or their income is extremely low

Data source: Poverty thresholds are from Households Below Average Income 2019/20, Department for Work and Pensions. Minimum Income Standard thresholds are based on the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) for London, Trust for London 2020. Destitution in the UK 2020, JRF

The table shows different definitions and thresholds necessary to not be considered either in poverty or deprived. The amount of income is dependent on the type of household.

The Mini…

Proportion of people in poverty over time after housing costs (1996/97 - 2019/20)

More than a quarter (27%) of Londoners live in households that are in poverty (after housing costs - AHC), meaning that 2.4 million Londoners live in poverty in 2019/20. The poverty rate (AHC) in London is 6 percentage points higher than in the rest of England

The proportion of households in poverty after housing costs (AHC) was relatively stable between 1996/97 and 2018/19:

  • In London poverty rates varied between 27% and 30%; and
  • in the rest of England poverty rates varied between 20% and 24%.

Poverty rates (AHC) in London have been higher than in the rest of England for at least the last two decades.

In contrast, poverty rates before housing costs (BHC) over the last 20 years have been more similar between London and the rest of England. Current rates of BHC poverty are slightly higher in the rest of England (17%) than in London (16%). Again…

Poverty rates by demographic characteristics in London (2019/20)

Poverty rates vary significantly across different demographic groups in London and the rest of England.

Overall, poverty rates amongst men and women are similar. However, in the rest of England both men and women have a lower poverty rate (both 21%) compared to those in London (28% and 29% respectively).

Both in London and the Rest of England, poverty rates are higher for BME people (39% and 38%) than for White groups (21% and 19%). Amongst the different family types, single parents with children are most likely to experience poverty. In London, 53% of this group were in poverty in 2019/20. Between 2014/15 and 2019/20, London pensioners experienced the largest increase in poverty rates. The poverty rate for couple pensioners rose by 6 percentage points (from 15% to 21%) and for single pensioners also by 6 percentage points (from 22% to 28%…

Modeled poverty rates by London borough (2013/2014)

The most recent estimates of overall poverty rates for London boroughs are from modelled small-area estimates using 2013/14 data. According to these, the boroughs with the highest proportion of people living in poverty are Tower Hamlets (39%), Newham (37%) and Hackney (36%). In contrast, these estimates suggest that Bromley (15%), Richmond upon Thames (15%) and Bexley (16%) have the lowest rates of poverty. 

These borough-level poverty rates are based on aggregations of lower-level figures (Middle Layer Super Output Area) that were derived using a combination of responses to the Family Resources Survey and information from the 2011 Census and administrative data.

Poverty rates by region (2019/20)

Poverty rates are higher in London than any other region after housing costs are taken into consideration - more than a quarter of individuals living in London are in poverty (27%). 

The proportion of people living in poverty in London almost doubles when housing costs are taken into account (rising from 16% before housing costs to 27% after housing costs). This gap between before and after housing costs measures of poverty is much larger in the capital than any in other English region.

Housing costs as proportion of net income for households in poverty (2019/20)

Households living in poverty are spending a significantly larger proportion of their net income on housing costs than households not living in poverty. This is true both in London and in the rest of England. 

London households in poverty are estimated, on average, to spend 54% of their total net income on housing costs. In comparison, those living in households which are not in poverty spend just 13% on average. The trend is similar in the rest of England with households in poverty spending 36% of their income on housing compared to 9% for those not in poverty, but the gap is much smaller than in the capital. Compared to the rest of England, both types of households in London are spending proportionally more of their net income on housing costs.

What we learn from this data:

  • Two decades ago, for the vast majority of Londoners a move out of the capital meant a better quality of life economically.
  • Today the two-tier nature of London means the picture is far more nuanced. The residents of the poorest boroughs no longer see such stark decreases in deprivation when they move outwards, and those in the outer London boroughs may actually worsen their quality of lives by leaving the city.

The dataset

New analysis of a dataset on 'Residential Mobility and Deprivation' produced by the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) reveals what happens to people’s quality of life as measured by levels of neighbourhood deprivation when moving out of Greater London.

The analysis of people moving out of London in 1999 shows a striking pattern - an almost universal decrease in deprivation (with a c…

Proportion of total wealth held in each decile (2018-20)

Wealth is very unequally distributed. In London, those in the top wealth decile (i.e. the 10% of people with the highest wealth) hold 44.3% of London’s total net wealth. Those in the bottom decile (the bottom 10%) hold none of London’s total net wealth.

In the rest of England a similar divide is found, where the top decile holds 42.8% of total net wealth and the bottom holds just 0.1% of total net wealth which is barely visible on the chart.

Total net wealth is an estimate of the value of wealth held by all private households, including net property, net financial, private pension and physical wealth.

London poverty rates before and after housing costs (1996/97 - 2019/20)

The proportion of people living in poverty in London almost doubles when housing costs are taken into account (rising from 16% to 27%). 

This gap between before and after housing costs measures of poverty is much larger in the capital than in the rest of the country. For example, in 2019/20 the gap was 11 percentage points in London, compared to 4 percentage points in the rest of England. This demonstrates the fact that the cost of housing is a much larger driver of poverty in London than in the rest of the country.

The impact of housing costs on poverty in London has also increased since the early 2000s. For example, in 2005/06 the gap between before and after housing costs measures of poverty in capital was 9 percentage points, whilst between 2010/11 and 2016/17 the gap has been between 12 and 14 percentage points.

Proportion of population within the bottom and top 10% of the income distribution after housing costs by region (2019/20)

This indicator shows the proportion of the population in each region in England who are in the bottom and top deciles of the overall income distribution nationally after housing costs in 2019/20.

It shows that, in comparison to all other regions in England, London has the largest proportion of its population that are in the bottom decile (15%). The South West has the lowest proportion, with just 8% of its population in the bottom income decile.

16% of Londoners are in the top decile of England’s income distribution, the highest of any region in England. The regions surrounding London, the South East and East of England, have the next highest proportion of residents in the top income decile and 15% and 12% respectively.