Minimum Income Standard

Defining a decent standard of living and helping more people to achieve it

The Minimum Income Standard (MIS) identifies the amount of money different types of households require to achieve a socially acceptable standard of living.

In 2018-19, 30% of the UK population (19.6 million people) were living below MIS – an increase of 3.4 million since 2008-9. There are variations across demographic groups, but a growing number of working households are below MIS.

For people living below MIS, it can be a struggle to cover the cost of essentials.

Our impact

The Real Living Wage

  • Nearly 8,000 Living Wage employers have increased the pay of more than 250,000 workers

Assistance for low income households

  • MIS helps charities disburse £20 million every year to households in need
  • Scottish Government spends £10-12 billion to reduce fuel poverty, defined using MIS

Improved access to justice

  • MIS supported the 2017 Supreme Court ruling outlawing employment tribunal fees
  • Since then, 64% more workers have accessed tribunals

The research

Our research to define MIS began in 2006, with first results published in 2008.

Since 2009, we have recalculated and updated MIS annually. This involves consultations with the public to determine the weekly budgets needed by different households to maintain an acceptable standard of living that supports participation in society.

This research is principally funded – and MIS endorsed – by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, but other organisations have supported specific studies around the cost of living, for example, in rural communities; for those with sight and hearing loss; and for children in foster families. Our work defining MIS for London is supported by Trust for London.

MIS now informs efforts to tackle low income in the UK. For example, it has demonstrated that the National Minimum Wage is too low for many households to reach a minimum acceptable standard of living – encouraging employers to adopt instead the Real Living Wage.

In addition, MIS is being piloted and adopted worldwide – in France, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand – to explore ways to introduce policy and practice that will ensure a decent standard of living for people across a range of socio-economic situations.

The work of the Centre for Research in Social Policy on the Minimum Income Standard has been pivotal in getting a Living Wage established as a recognised standard across the UK, and its adoption by nearly 7,000 Living Wage employers.

Matthew Bolton Executive Director - Citizens UK

Research funders

  • The Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Development partners

Over the years, we have worked with a range of partners, including

  • Association of Charitable Organisations 
  • Child Poverty Action Group
  • Gingerbread
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • Trust for London

Meet the experts

Photograph of Donald Hirsch

Professor Donald Hirsch

Director – Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP)