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Consumer spending and debt

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This project exposed the implications of our consumer culture in the context of recession, particularly for lower income households. It has produced evidence from research with 58 low-income families about their spending and saving patterns and published four reports (see below).

Consumption has been a key driver of economic growth and rising consumption has been a feature of the significant rises in living standards in the UK over recent decades. However, this has created problems at the national and household level. Changes in consumption have affected different socio-economic groups in different ways, contributing to greater inequality and new risks for lower income households. Rising consumption aspirations and needs have led to high levels of household debt and vulnerability to changes in income.

With the British economy in recession, unemployment and repossessions on the rise and a downturn in consumer spending, this research has explored the impact on families during these unprecedented events.

The project is based on groundbreaking diary research investigating the consumption hardship faced by low-income households. This new evidence will be brought together with the existing literature to provide a coherent agenda for policy reforms to address some of the challenges and hardships for poorer consumers.


When Times are Tough: Tracking household spending and debt through diaries – interim findings

Saving and Asset-Building in Low-Income Households by Tony Dolphin

Strength Against Shocks: Low-income families and debt by Dalia Ben-Galim and Tess Lanning

When Times Are Tough: Four families’ stories