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One in three households were spending more than their income before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, new analysis reveals.

With household budgets being squeezed by sharp rises in the cost of living, joined-up data from the Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS) and the Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) provide insight into the financial vulnerability of different households.

In the period from April 2018 to March 2020, an estimated 1 in 14 households were in poverty for income, spending and financial wealth.

Financial wealth includes cash (money in current accounts), savings, and other assets that are easy to access such as shares. It excludes property, private pensions and household belongings. Full definitions of poverty are available in Measuring the data.

When you think about your income, spending, savings, and any property you own, do you consider yourself richer or poorer than average?

Our calculator compares your financial situation with other households.


There are tools available to help if you are struggling with your household finances, such as a money helper provided by the Money and Pensions Service.


Before coronavirus, one in three households were spending more than their income

More than a third (35%) of households in Great Britain spent more than they had in disposable (net) income before the coronavirus pandemic.

This is according to linked data from the WAS and the LCF for the period April 2018 to March 2020.

Increasing household costs such as energy tend to have a disproportionate impact on lower income households and their spending. Those who are already spending more than their income may be less able to absorb additional costs.

More than half (57%) of working-age people who were living alone spent more than their income in April 2018 to March 2020. This was the highest percentage among household types. These households were able to fund the shortfall for three to four months on average.

Single-parent households who were overspending (43%) could only sustain it for one month on average.

People living alone were the least likely to be in all three types of poverty, while parents were the most likely

Poverty rates varied in different types of households.

Lone-parent households were worst off. They had the highest rates of income, spending and financial wealth poverty (54%, 46% and 83% respectively), with almost a third (31%) in poverty for all three measures.

Households with two parents were the next most likely to be in all three types of poverty (13%), while only 4% of households without children were in the same position.

People of working age who were living alone were the least likely to be in poverty for all three measures (2%), despite being among the most likely to experience income and financial wealth poverty (33% and 53% respectively).

Rates of spending poverty were the lowest among working-age people living alone (4%) compared with other household types.


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