Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Centre for Research in Social Policy

A Minimum Income Standard for the UK

Basket full of food

A Minimum Income Standard for the United Kingdom is a major programme of work regularly reporting on how much income households need to afford an acceptable standard of living.  Developed between 2006-2008, in collaboration with the Family Budget Unit at the University of York, this programme is now carried out fully by CRSP, with on-going funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

MIS is based on detailed research with groups of members of the public specifying what items need to be included in a minimum household budget.  The groups are informed by expert knowledge where needed, for example on nutritional standards.  The results show how much households need in a weekly budget and how much they need to earn in order to achieve this disposable income.

MIS is updated annuallyat least with inflation, with new research every two years ensuring that it reflects changing social norms.

The impact of MIS has been wide-ranging.  It is used frequently in policy debate and analysis and at a more practical level by some charities to target financial support.  MIS forms the basis for setting the Living Wage outside London, which has been adopted widely by public, private and voluntary bodies.

MIS has been used in CRSP to analyse the cost of a child, Universal Credit, the ‘couple penalty’ and the number of people living below adequate income.

As well as calculating MIS levels for the UK as a whole, CRSP has done the same for rural areas in England and remote parts of Scotland, and for Northern Ireland.  It has also explored whether environmental considerations may affect social definitions of a minimum, and whether older pensioners have different minimum income requirements from younger ones.

A growing number of countries are using the MIS method, as developed in the UK, to carry out similar studies, or are considering doing so.  Researchers in the Republic of Ireland have carried out several studies, and teams in France, Japan and Portugal are currently undertaking programmes of research modelled on MIS.  CRSP has also carried out a MIS study in Guernsey.

MIS updating

The original MIS study published in 2008 produced detailed budgets for a range of households with and without children and of working age and pension age.  Every July, we produce a new report, updating these budgets, as well as updating our Minimum Income Calculator which allows them to be calculated for 107 household types.

The annual updates take account of inflation and changes in the tax and benefit system.  In addition, every two years, new research considers whether the basket of items used to calculate the budgets needs revision in light of changes in society.  This involves a light-touch ‘review’ of existing budgets, asking groups of members of the public if the lists need to change.  But every four years for each household type, we ‘rebase’ the calculations by asking the groups to construct new budgets from a blank sheet.  

These full rebases of the budget are carried out on an alternating basis:


Centre for Research
in Social Policy

Department of Social Sciences
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU

+44 (0)1509 223372