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Poverty statistics and definitions

Poverty statistics and definitions

The Scottish Government and others provide a wealth of statistical evidence and information on poverty in Scotland and across the UK. The latest statistics are published annually (around March) and can be accessed on the Scottish Government website.

Poverty statistics in Scotland look at how the lowest income households compare with average income households. A household is considered to be in poverty if their income if less than 60% of the average income for that household type.

Key statistics

All of the statistics presented below are based on relative poverty after housing costs. In the reporting years 2015-18, it is estimated that in Scotland:

  • 20% of the population (1.03 million people each year) were living in poverty;
  • 20% of working-age adults (640,000 each year) were living in poverty;
  • 24% of children (240,000 children each year) were living in poverty;
  • 15% of pensioners (150,000 each year) were living in poverty;
  • 60% of working-age adults and 65% of children in poverty were in in-work poverty in Scotland.

Families at higher risk of poverty

The Scottish Government's Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan outlined six priority families who are at higher risk of experiencing poverty. These include:

  • Lone parent families, the large majority of which are headed by women;
  • Families which include a disabled adult or child;
  • Larger families;
  • Minority ethnic families;
  • Families with a child under one year old;
  • Families where the mother is under 25 years of age.

We know that structural factors outwith the control of these households can lead to many becoming trapped in poverty. Often, the main issue is lack of flexibility around work and care, but there are many factors at play including discrimination, which leads to the far higher poverty rates for children in these families

Simple definitions

Relative Poverty - how many families are on low incomes compared with middle income households.

Absolute Poverty - how many low income families are not seeing their living standards improving over time.

Low income and Material Deprivation - how many lower income families cannot afford basic necessities.

Persistent Poverty - how many families live on low incomes three years out of four.

In work poverty - how many families, where someone is in paid employment, are living in relative poverty.


More technical definitions can be found on the Scottish Government website