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Where are we now and what can be done?

The growing divide between the poor and the rich is the most significant social change to have occurred during the last few decades. The new Labour government inherited a country more unequal than at any other time since the Second World War.

This book brings together a collection of contributions on inequalities in the main areas of British life: income, wealth, standard of living, employment, education, housing, crime and health.

It charts the extent of the growth in inequalities and offers a coherent critique of the new Labour government’s policies aimed at those tackling this crisis. In particular, the numerous area-based anti-poverty policies currently being pursued are unlikely to have a significant and long-lasting effect, since many lessons from the past have been ignored. The contributors use and interpret official data to show how statistics are often misused to obscure or distort the reality of inequality.

A range of alternative policies for reducing inequalities in Britain are discussed and set within the global context of the need for international action.

Tackling inequalities is a valuable contribution to the emerging policy debate written by the leading researchers in the field. It is essential reading for academics, policy makers, and students with an interest in inequalities, poverty and social exclusion.

Studies in poverty, inequality and social exclusion series

Series Editor: David Gordon, Director, Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research.

Poverty, inequality and social exclusion remain the most fundamental problems that humanity faces in the 21st century. This exciting series, published in association with the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, aims to make cutting-edge poverty related research more widely available.

For other titles in this series, please follow the series link from the main catalogue page.

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Crime is an inescapable feature of everyday modern life. According to the government’s own sources, crime has grown considerably in post-war Britain. Whereas 500,000 crimes were recorded in 1955, the extent of police recorded crime had reached 4.5 million crimes by the time New Labour took office in 1997 (Barclay and Tavares, 1999)1. Yet there is widespread acknowledgement that these crimes are just the tip of the iceberg, with a vast amount of crime being unreported, unrecorded and undetected (Coleman and Moynihan, 1996). According to the more reliable British Crime Survey (BCS), crime rose steadily in the decade from 1981, and continued to rise during the early 1990s, peaking in 1995 to over 16.5 million crimes. The most recent sweep, however, shows that since 1995, the risk of becoming a victim of crime has fallen from 40% to 26% (representing a drop in BCS crime by 40%), the lowest level recorded since the survey began in 1981 (Dodd et al, 2004).

Despite being a vastly improved measurement method, the BCS is still likely to considerably underestimate the amount of crime. One study (Green, 2004) found that at least 10.9 million offences are missed from the most recent survey but even this estimate fails to include a whole raft of other crimes such as white-collar, corporate crime and environmental crime (Garside, 2004), which would indicate that the problem of crime is a much bigger one than evidenced by either police-recorded crime or victimisation surveys like the BCS (Box, 1983).

In addition to these high levels of crime, the government argues that acts of‘disorder’, which often make people’s lives intolerable, have now reached unacceptable levels.

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The growing divide between the poor and the rich is probably the most significant social change to have occurred under 18 years of Conservative government. The New Labour government inherited a country more unequal than at any other time since the Second World War. This book brings together a collection of contributions on the pressing issue of tackling inequalities in society. This chapter introduces the main themes of the book, describing inequality, poverty, and politics; the New Labour government; equality and distribution; the third way and modern welfare; social cohesion; and economic efficiency. The book is based around two central themes. First, the New Labour government has responded to the increasing spatial concentrations of poverty and inequality by introducing area-based policies to deal with the lack of opportunities in deprived areas. The second theme of the book is the use and interpretation of official statistics.

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This chapter discusses New Labour’s policies on crime, in particular the New Deal for Communities, its initiative to reduce crime and disorder on Britain’s most deprived estates. It offers an alternative approach to the government’s proposals by suggesting that inequalities in crime and fear of crime should be seen in the context of other inequalities which are suffered disproportionately by people living in poverty. The analysis of the 1994 British Crime Survey indicates that the relationship between poverty and crime is more complex than is currently recognised by the government and academics alike.

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The millennium survey

This book is the most authoritative study of poverty and social exclusion in Britain at the start of the 21st century. It reports on the most comprehensive survey of poverty and social exclusion, ever to be undertaken in Britain: The Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey. This enormously rich data set records levels of poverty not just in terms of income and wealth but by including information about the goods and services which the British public say are necessary to avoid poverty.

The relationship between poverty and factors such as age, gender and paid work are explored, as well as other social issues such as crime and neighbourhood disadvantage.

Poverty and social exclusion in Britain charts the extent and nature of material and social deprivation and exclusion in Britain at the end of the 20th century; makes the first ever measurement of the extent of social exclusion based on a survey specifically designed for this purpose and provides a clear conceptual understanding of poverty and social exclusion from both an national and international perspective.

This important book should be read by officials and policy makers in national and local government, NGOs, charities and voluntary organisations dealing with poverty and social exclusion. It will also be required reading for academics and students of social policy, sociology, public health, economics and politics.

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Drawing on nationally representative surveys, this paper describes the contemporary relationship between gender and poverty in Britain and changes between 1999 and 2012. Poverty rates between men and women have converged: women today are only marginally poorer than men. Our analysis reveals that female lone parents‘ poverty rates remain exceptionally high, the situation of older women has markedly improved, and there is an emerging poor group of solo-living men. We therefore argue that gendered analysis of poverty needs to consider the circumstances of men as well as women, and that some of the standard feminisation of poverty arguments require revision.

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Utilising a political economy perspective in examining the UK's counter-terrorist strategy since September 2001, we argue that there are observable economic and political interests influencing the development and implementation of policy. Specifically, there are significant electoral gains to be made and also lucrative contracts to be won in the new security environment. These interests have culminated in the UK being both an ‘importer’ of policy from supranational and regional organisations, and other nation states – most notably from the US – and an ‘exporter’ of policy as a result of having achieved a certain level of kudos with respect to the Northern Ireland conflict.

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The concept of risk has long since developed from an abstraction solely concerned with attempting to predict the consequences of modern society to one which is now used to articulate them (Douglas, 1992). This is no less true in the context of studies on homelessness where the concept of risk generally finds its expression in two related but ultimately distinct ways. The first sense concerns the risk of becoming homeless such as when we are told that the young are more at risk of homelessness than the old, that in England as a whole the risk of experiencing homelessness over the last 10 years is about 4.3% and that a black head of household is over three times more at risk from experiencing homelessness than a white head of household. The second concerns the risks inherent in and attendant on homelessness; exemplified in the finding that single homeless persons are at greater risk of poor health than the general population (see, for example, Bines, 1994; Burrows, 1997; Kemp, 1997; Pleace and Quilgars, 1997).

Risk, although rarely explicitly, is therefore an important and much used medium of ostensible explanation and articulation in the discussion of homelessness. What is more significant in the context of this discussion, however, is not the pervasive use of risk, but rather how the use of risk converges to at once produce and reinforce the status of the homeless population as a population of victims. More specifically, the homeless are primarily presented as suffering in two principal ways – first as a simple result of being homeless and then again for experiencing the problems that are attendant on homelessness, such as malnutrition and premature death (Keys and Kennedy, 1992; Grenier, 1996).

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Poverty has always been a gendered experience. At the start of the last century, 61% of adults on all forms of poor relief were women (Lewis and Piachaud, 1987, pp 27-30), and women continued to be consistently poorer than men throughout the century. This unequal vulnerability reflects gendered access to resources and women’s dependency on the family, principally on fathers or husbands. In the early 20th century fewer women than today were in paid employment, earnings often fell below subsistence needs, and state provision was less generous and access to it more restricted (Glendinning and Millar, 1991). In spite of major changes in the social and economic roles of women, poverty remains a gendered experience at the start of 21st century with women more vulnerable to poverty. Women are not only more likely than men to experience deprivation, but they experience it in different ways: specific risk factors affect women in particular; women’s poverty spells are longer; and women are particularly exposed to economic fluctuations, since they have much lower and more unstable family and individual incomes (see, among others, Daly, 1989; Millar, 2000; Ruspini, 2000). For example, female-headed households, with or without dependent children, are far more vulnerable to poverty than households where an adult male is present. Lone motherhood has indeed become one of the key groups for the analysis of gender and poverty. As Levitas et al show in Chapter Fourteen, women without children and without access to a male wage also have increased risks of poverty. Some men, however, also face greater risks of poverty as a consequence of de-industrialisation (see, for example, Convery, 1997).

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This chapter makes the case for reasserting the importance of gender to poverty and social exclusion.We argue that gender matters to understanding poverty, given the continued relevance of gender to involvement in paid and unpaid work, and caring responsibilities, across the lifecourse. However, academics and policy makers need to reconfigure gendered poverty as more than simply studying ‘poor women’. Our analysis explores the circumstances of both women and men, and how gender intersects in significant ways with age and household type. We also show that gender differences emerge not in relation to deprivation but also in economising practices that men and women adopt to protect their living standards with women more like to cut back than men. Finally, our work highlights the need for poverty researchers to acknowledge the importance of both household and individual level measures.

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