Why do rates of poverty and economic inequality persist in the UK? Professor Karen Rowlingson writes for the Social Policy Association

CHASM members continue to play an active role in supporting the Social Policy Association – the professional association for lecturers, researchers and students of social policy in the UK and internationally.

This year CHASM’s Professor Karen Rowlingson became the Association’s President while Dr Lee Gregory continues his role as the Membership Secretary.

At its annual conference in Durham this year on 8 – 10th July 2019, Lee presented a paper on ‘Securing the discipline over the next 50 years: reflections on the ideational core of Social Policy’ and CHASM Director Andy Lymer presented his paper on ‘Indirect taxation and its implications for social policy’ presented papers.  CHASM Associates Maggie May and Eddie Brunsdon also presented a paper on ‘Taxation and work-based benefits in the UK’ and Karen was a discussant on a Symposium session entitled ‘Moving beyond Income- Taxing wealth and consumption’.

Karen Rowlingson also wrote one of the 50 ‘50th Anniversary year’ Blogs the Association produced during this special year for the group and published just before the annual conference. Her blog was entitled: Why do high rates of poverty and economic inequality persist in the UK? In this blog Karen discusses the need to understand our ‘moral economy’.

She introduced the blog by stating that the UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet levels of poverty and economic inequality are extremely high. In 2016, the top 1 per cent in the UK owned 10 per cent of all income and 20 per cent of all wealth. New research shows that poverty and inequality are linked and cause considerable harm to individuals, families and our society more broadly. Growing destitution, street homelessness, child poverty, in-work poverty and precarity, health inequalities, pensioner poverty and so on, are all on the increase alongside growing affluence at the top.  

The negative impacts of poverty and economic inequality, including those relating to physical and mental health, are not randomly distributed. They affect people disproportionately by ‘race’, ethnicity, religion, gender, social class, age, and disability.  

Why do we continue to tolerate this? Understanding our ‘moral economy’ is key to answering this question.