Intended for healthcare professionals


Income needed to achieve a minimum standard of living

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 17 August 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4070
  1. Elizabeth Dowler, registered public health nutritionist and professor of food and social policy
  1. 1Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL
  1. elizabeth.dowler{at}

    The standards will now not be reached by households on low incomes in the UK

    As the new coalition government in the United Kingdom calls for ideas on cutting public expenditure, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published the latest annual update of its “minimum income standards” (MIS). These standards provide a measure of how much various types of households need to earn to reach what members of the public think is a minimum acceptable standard of living.1

    The data enable a relatively objective view of what society thinks is essential for a decent standard of living and what it costs to achieve such a standard, taking tax and benefit changes into account. The report gives details of MIS and their components for different family household types—single adult or couple, with or without dependent children, and pensioners—and it enables households to calculate their own MIS, by adjusting for their own circumstances.2

    The results are surprising and sobering. For example, in contrast to official inflation over the past decade of 23%, minimum budget costs have risen by 38% over that period, largely because of increased costs of food (37%), bus fares (59%), and council tax (67%). This demonstrates the often cited reality that price inflation …

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