The living standards audit 2017

Document type
Corlett, Adam; Clarke, Stephen; Tomlinson, Dan
Resolution Foundation
Date of publication
3 July 2017
Social Policy, Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

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This report provides the first comprehensive look at the living standards of UK households in the year leading up to the 2017 general election. It is a detailed look at the trends in living standards over the previous two decades.

Despite employment reaching record highs, real average earnings are now falling in the UK – in both the public and the private sector – and in addition the real value of many working-age benefits is falling as the benefit freeze interacts with rapidly rising prices. 2016-17 may have been just the beginning of a slowdown in income growth for low to middle income families and a rise in inequality for us all.

Key findings:

  • Growth in typical incomes has slowed significantly, from 1.6 per cent in 2015-16 to 0.7 per cent this year.
  • The living standards picture looks to have deteriorated over the course of 2016-17, with timely National Accounts data suggesting that real household incomes per capita have declined in each of the last three quarters.
  • Housing costs have acted to boost income over 2016-17, with typical incomes after housing costs increasing by 1.3 per cent in 2016-17. Owner occupiers have fared particularly well thanks to falling interest rates. Research suggests that typical incomes among those who own with a mortgage have increased by 1.7 per cent over 2016-17, compared to just 0.2 per cent for private renters.
  • Inequality in the UK is high, and has been rising slowly over recent years. A large part of this story has been fast-rising incomes among the top one per cent. Their total share of income is now nearing a record high.

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