Persistent poverty stable

Latest Official Statistics published

Between 2016 and 2020, one tenth of people in Scotland were in persistent poverty after housing costs. Persistent poverty identifies individuals who live in relative poverty (have a household income of less than 60% of the UK median) for at least three years out of the last four.

Persistent poverty rates were similar for children and working-age adults (10%) and pensioners (11%). Over time, persistent poverty rates have been fairly stable for all age groups, except for children in the most recent period.

Persistent child poverty saw a relatively large drop compared to previous estimates, from 15% to 10%. This observed fall should be interpreted with caution as persistent poverty estimates do tend to fluctuate. So not all of this decrease is likely to reflect real change and will be due to a range of factors. Some low income households will have benefitted from increased financial support during the pandemic. At the same time, reduced earnings and job losses may have resulted in a lower median income, leading to a fall in the poverty line, and a drop in the relative poverty rate.

Not everyone in poverty is in persistent poverty: More than a third of people in poverty move out of poverty each year. At the same time, a similar number of people who were not in poverty before enter poverty each year.

The persistent poverty report usually goes alongside the main poverty statistics publication Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland. This will not be published this year due to the disrupted data collection during COVID-19 restrictions. An analytical report will be published instead to explain the limitations of the most recent data. Users should note that the latest reliable figures are those previously published. 

These figures are produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


The full publications are available here:

Persistent Poverty in Scotland presents estimates of the proportion of people in Scotland who live in persistent poverty. The data come from the Understanding Society Survey, and the latest statistics cover the period from 2016 to 2020.

These poverty statistics are used by the Scottish Government and other organisations to monitor progress in tackling poverty and child poverty, and to analyse what drives poverty and what works for tackling poverty and income inequality.

Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland - analytical report provides information on the limitations of the most recent data for 2020/21 from the Department for Work and Pensions Family Resources Survey Households Below Average Income dataset. This report and dataset are not official statistics. Users should note that the latest reliable figures are those previously published for 2019/20. The latest estimates are unreliable as they are based on data collected during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions. These affected the data collection and as a result, it was not possible to obtain a representative sample for Scotland. UK income and poverty figures are published on the same day by DWP.

Key poverty measures:

Relative poverty: A household is in relative poverty if its income is below 60 percent of the middle household income in the UK (the poverty threshold). Relative poverty is a measure of whether the income of the poorest households are keeping pace with middle income households across the UK.

Persistent poverty identifies the number of people in relative poverty for three or more out of four years. People who live in poverty for several years are affected by it through their lifetime.

Household income is adjusted for household size.

The poverty publications present poverty figures before and after housing costs. Before housing costs figures are a basic measure of household income from earnings and benefits. After housing costs figures subtract spending on rents, mortgage interest payments and other unavoidable housing costs from this basic income. In Scotland, poverty statistics focus mainly on poverty after housing costs. The poverty estimates in this summary refer to relative poverty after housing costs.

Further information on income and poverty statistics within Scotland is available.

Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff – more information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland is available.


Media enquiries

Back to top