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CASE Special Events

Can public consensus identify a 'riches line'?

Friday 14 February 2020 10:00 - 12:30

This event will be held ONLINE. Register via EventBrite

Exploring Londoners' values and opinions about higher living standards

This event marks the launch of a report on an innovative study conducted in London examining whether members of the public could identify and agree on a threshold above which a standard of living could be regarded as excessive, or harmful to wider society. Its findings contribute to current public and political debates around inequality and offer insights into how ordinary people think about high incomes, wealth and the wealthy.

The event will bring together those with an interest in wealth and income inequality. Following a presentation of the research there will be a broader discussion of the issues raised for the framing of public debate, campaigning and advocacy, and the shape of policies to address economic inequality. Practitioners, activists and academics will be encouraged to contribute to the conversation and reflect on how the findings can be used to inform their own work.

Event details:

10.00 Arrival and registration

10.30 Research presentation, Q & A, panel responses, open discussion

12.30 Event close and light refreshments

This event is free and open to all, however pre-registration is required:

The online request form will be live on this listing from 14th January until 13th February. If you would like to join us for an informal buffet lunch immediately following the event please indicate this on your ticket request form and inform us of any dietary requirements.

Register via EventBrite

London is home to vast and visible economic inequality, where the richest 10 per cent own 61 per cent of overall wealth, while at the same time four in ten Londoners do not earn enough for what is considered by the public to be a decent standard of living. This study sought to explore opinions about what constituted a standard of living that could be considered 'fully flourishing', and, by extension, if there was a point beyond that at which individual or household resources could be identified as being excessive. The findings provide thought-provoking insights into how people think about the protection wealth and higher incomes offer, and the judgements they make about the 'deservingness' of different sources of wealth and the uses to which it is put.

Identifying different standards

The research was based on an adaptation of the Minimum Income Standards (MIS) methodology that has been used for over a decade to identify a minimum socially acceptable living standard, based on public consensus about the needs of individuals and households. It involves a process in which groups of members of the public discuss and negotiate what goods and services are required in order to have that standard of living. In this study, groups were asked to discuss what kinds of items, activities and facilities people living at levels well above the minimum would be accustomed to having. Findings from each group were fed into subsequent groups in order to test and broaden consensus.

Participants were asked about positive and negative aspects of the different living standards identified for the individuals concerned and for wider society. Discussions were multi-faceted, encompassing safety and security, health and well-being, self-esteem and status. Potential economic, democratic and environmental harms were considered. The views expressed were often complex and sometimes surprising, with distinctions being made by participants between good and bad kinds of wealth and uses of wealth that are not commonplace in public and policy debates.


  • Dr Wanda Wyporzka Executive Director, The Equality Trust
  • Daniel Edmiston Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds
  • Donald Hirsch Director, Centre for Research in Social Policy

Research team

The project was a collaboration between:

  • Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP), Loughborough University: Abigail Davis and Donald Hirsch
  • Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), London School of Economics: Tania Burchardt, Ian Gough, Katharina Hecht and Kate Summers
  • Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM), Birmingham University: Karen Rowlingson