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CASE | Research Programmes

Intra-household allocation of resources:

implications for poverty, deprivation and inequality in the European Union

Research Objectives and overview:

Single parents with very limited income are often driven to neglect their own individual needs in order to prioritise their children's needs for food, clothing, or day to day items.  Nevertheless, conventional indicators of being at risk of a low standard of living - household income below a given threshold, or household experiencing material deprivation - are imperfect proxies for individuals' achieved standards of living. This is because they rely on the assumption that all members of a household share its resources and hardships equally. But previous studies have shown this is unlikely to reflect what actually happens. Who benefits from the household income is likely to vary systematically by gender, age, and household composition, as well as by country – as household composition varies dramatically across European Union countries.

This issue has come into sharp focus during the recent recession and 'austerity' programmes. Adopting shared living arrangements is one strategy to protect the living standards of vulnerable family members. The countries of Southern Europe especially hard hit by the recession and austerity already had high levels of multi-generational households, and this may have increased further.

This project is using micro-data from the European Union Statistics on Incomes and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) to examine the sensitivity of poverty, deprivation and inequality estimates across European countries to different assumptions about the intra-household sharing of resources in complex households, and to identify the groups of people for whom intra-household inequality may have the largest impact.

News about this project:

Tania Burchardt presented preliminary research findings, for presentation slides and news of forthcoming presentations in 2018 read more here

We aim to build and extend exisiting links, to reach target groups/countries and promote two-way engagement with this project. Sign up (below) to our project-specific mailing list to recieve news, key findings and publication updates.

Case study:

The example below, which is not based on any individual as we are at an early stage, shows how the issues we are exploring might be illustrated in real cases:

Maria, aged 22, lives with her parents. She is an unemployed lone parent, with a 2 year old daughter Carmen. Maria puts all of her social assistance benefit to help towards paying the household rent. Her parents, both of whom are working, pay for food and bills, and occasionally help out by buying clothes and toys for Carmen. Using conventional poverty measures, no members of the family are deemed to be poor, because the assumption is made that all incomes are pooled and all members of the household benefit equally from the pool. But in practice, not all of the income of Maria’s parents is entered into the common pool, and it is possible that Maria and/or Carmen are in fact poor. This project will investigate complex households such as Maria’s and consider whether making more realistic assumptions about pooling and sharing result in different people being identified as poor.


A film about this project will appear here soon. In this film Tania Burchardt talks about her research on Equality, Capability and Human Rights.

Funder and Partners:

The project is funded by a £318,268 grant from ESRC. The project advisory group includes Carlotta Balestra from OECD, Fran Bennett, from the University of Oxford; Michel Debruyne from the Alliance to Fight Poverty; Hans Dubois from EUROFOUND; Maria Iacovou from the University of Cambridge; Jemima Olchawski from the Fawcett Society; Holly Sutherland from the University of Essex; and Peter Matejic from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Interactive Tool:

How do you share income in your family? COMING SOON an interactive tool to explore how you currently do it, and how families in other counties do it differently