Bringing up a family: Making ends meet

This research is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and builds on the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) work. This qualitative longitudinal study aims to understand more about what life is like for families living below MIS – what financial challenges they face, what helps them manage or makes it more difficult, and how this changes over time.

An initial study of thirty families living between 10 and 50 per cent below the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) in 2015 found that families in this situation often face an unstable or uncertain world, including insecure work and for some the uncertainties of privately rented housing, and that they greatly value stability.  It identified factors that help or hinder family well-being, including health conditions, the availability of extended family support and whether there is a background of debt.

Two further round of interviews in 2017 and early 2020 followed up families to provide an insight into their experiences of making ends meet over a five year period.  It highlights the impact of changes in employment and benefits, and how factors such as children’s transitions, the health of parents and children, and the presence of informal networks can interact with income to place more demands on a family budget or help to ease it.  The interaction of different resources and demands can have positive and/or negative implications for people’s financial situation, but this is not necessarily linear – it can involve ups and downs and life for families on a low income can mean living in a state of flux.

We subsequently carried out follow up interviews in September/October 2020, to explore families’ experiences and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on their household finances and on their lives more generally over the six months since the start of the first lockdown.  It looks at how families experienced changes in their incomes, outgoings and dealing with new challenges such as home schooling.  Covid-19 shone a light on the precarity of life on a low income with those already facing constraints and instability more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic with fewer resources to fall back on.  

Publications

Falling Short: the Experiences of Families Living Below the Minimum Income Standard
Hill, K., Davis, A., Hirsch, D. and Marshall, L. (2016) Falling Short: the experiences of families living below the Minimum Income Standard.  York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Making Ends Meet Below the MIS families experiences over time
Hill, K. and Davis, A. (2018) Making Ends Meet Below the Minimum Income Standard: families’ experiences over time.  Loughborough: Centre for Research in Social Policy.

The role of Social Support Networks in Helping Low Income Families through Uncertain Times
Hill, K., Hirsch, D., and Davis, A. (2020) The Role of Social Support Networks in Helping Low Income Families through Uncertain Times.  Social Policy and Society, 1-16.  Doi:10.1017/S1474746420000184

Why this winter’s lockdown will be even tougher than the first for low income families
Ruth Webber, Katherine Hill and Donald Hirsch
Social Policy Association Blog, 18/1/21

Seeking an anchor in an unstable world: experiences of low-income families over time
Hill, K., and Webber, R. (2021) Seeking an anchor in an unstable world: experiences of low-income families over time, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York.

Staying afloat in a crisis: families on low incomes in the pandemic
Hill, K. and Webber, R. (2021) Staying afloat in a crisis: families on low incomes in the pandemic, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York.  

Low-income families before and during the pandemic - Findings Summary