Professor Karen Rowlingson

Professor Karen Rowlingson

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Professor of Social Policy

Contact details

School of Social Policy
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Karen is a Professor of Social Policy in the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology and a member of the Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM).


Karen Rowlingson joined the Department of Social Policy and Social Work in February 2007 as Professor of Social Policy.  She is currently Chair of the Social Policy Association (from 2019), and Member of REF 2021 sub-panel for Social Work and Social Policy (UoA 20). From 2016-2017 she was the Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on Financial Exclusion.  After studying Modern History at Oxford University and Sociology at the LSE, Karen then worked at the Policy Studies Institute in London before becoming an academic at the Universities of Derby and then Bath.  From 2010-2012 she was the Vice Chair of the ESRC's Research Committee and Chair of its Grants Delivery Group.  Karen was Founding Director of CHASM (the Research Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management) in 2010 and Deputy Head of College for the College of Social Sciences from 2017-2019.


Karen is currently teaching on the BA and MA in Social Policy. Her teaching specialism lies in research methods, social security policy and economic inequality.

Postgraduate supervision

poverty, wealth, inequality, social security, personal finance


Karen's research interests lie within the field of social policy and focus on the financial security of individuals, families and households including: assets and asset-based welfare; poverty, wealth and inequality; social security policy; financial capability and education (including savings, pensions, credit and debt).  As well as looking at individual behaviour in relation to personal finance she is interested in the role of the state, the financial services sector, employers and the third sector in delivering financial security.  Her research is strongly empirical involving a broad range of rigorous research methods. She has a particularly strong methodological expertise in designing quantitative surveys and mixing qualitative with quantitative methods.


Recent publications


Rowlingson, K, Joseph, R & Overton, L 2017, Inter-generational financial giving and inequality: give and take in 21st century families. Palgrave Macmillan Studies in family and intimate life, 1 edn, Palgrave Macmillan, London.


Gregory, J, Lymer, A & Rowlingson, K 2021, 'Personal savings for those on lower incomes: towards a new framework for assessing the role of the state in relation to savings schemes', Social Policy and Society.

Rowlingson, K, Sood, A & Tu, T 2021, 'Public attitudes to a wealth tax: the importance of 'capacity to pay'', Fiscal Studies, vol. 42, no. 3-4, pp. 431-455.

McKay, S & Rowlingson, K 2021, 'Want: still the easiest giant to attack?', Social Policy and Administration.

Johan, I, Rowlingson, K & Appleyard, L 2020, 'The Effect of Personal Finance Education on The Financial Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviour of University Students in Indonesia', Journal of Family and Economic Issues.

Gardner, J, Rowlingson, K & Appleyard, L 2018, 'Responsible borrowing and lending in U.K.', International Journal on Consumer Law and Practice, vol. 6.

Rowlingson, K, Appleyard, L & Gardner, J 2016, 'Payday lending in the UK: the regul(aris)ation of a necessary evil?', Journal of Social Policy, vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 527-543.

Appleyard, L, Rowlingson, K & Gardner, J 2016, 'The variegated financialization of sub-prime credit markets', Competition and Change, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 297-313.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Rowlingson, K 2016, 'You can't take it with you when you die': wealth, intestacy rules and inheritance tax. in K Woodthorpe & L Foster (eds), Death and Social Policy in Challenging Times. Palgrave Macmillan.

Prabhakar, R, Lymer, A & Rowlingson, K 2016, Does information about wealth inequality and inheritance tax raise public support for wealth taxes? in Taxation and Trust.

Rowlingson, K, Gardner, J & Appleyard, L 2016, Responsible lending in the UK: What role does the state play? in F Ferretti (ed.), Comparative Perspectives of Consumer Over-Indebtedness: A view from the UK, Germany, Greece, and Italy. Eleven International Publishing.

McKay, S & Rowlingson, K 2016, Social security under the Coalition and Conservatives: Shredding the system for people of working age; privileging pensioners. in H Bochel & M Powell (eds), The coalition government and social policy : Restructuring the welfare state . The Policy Press.

Commissioned report

Rowlingson, K & McKay, S 2015, Financial inclusion annual monitoring report 2015. University of Birmingham, Birmingham.

Rowlingson, K & Appleyard, L 2015, Introducing a time delay on access to credit: Is it just delaying the inevitable? University of Birmingham.

Web publication/site

Rowlingson, K, State of the nation: inequality rising shows we're not all in this together, 2015, Web publication/site, The Conversation .

View all publications in research portal


The financial security of individuals, families and households including: assets and asset-based welfare; poverty, wealth and inequality; inheritance and inheritance tax; social security policy; financial planning and money management; financial inclusion and capability; savings; pensions

Media experience

Karen regularly appears in various forms of media, commenting on twitter (with more than 1,300 followers), writing blogs, being reported in the press and appearing on radio and TV.  Recent media appearances include ITV’s ‘Tonight’ programme; BBC West Midlands News; Sky News TV; Radio 4 You & Yours to take part in their Debt Special programme The Guardian; Mail Online; and over 300 local radio stations and newspapers

Audio and video

Session 2 Prof Karen Rowlingson
A family affair: The transfer of wealth across generations
Responsibility for Welfare: The changing role of the state in the age of austerity

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office


Economic and trade policy

Karen Rowlingson has 25 years experience of carrying out policy-relevant applied research on poverty, inequality and personal finance issues.  From 2016/2017 she was the Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on Financial Exclusion.  She has also advised the Cabinet Office on their recent initiative to focus on an inclusive economy (October 2016-).  She is a member of Michael Sheen’s Alliance to End High Cost Credit, launched in March 2018 and  has also been invited by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to join an advisory group on the use of money (approximately £55m) from dormant bank accounts to help increase financial inclusion and capability (from May 2018).

In line with the civic mission of the University of Birmingham Karen also has a close relationship with Birmingham’s Financial Inclusion Partnership and has recently carried out a study of problem gambling in Birmingham to support their work on this topic. 

Karen is a regular contributor to a range of traditional and social media outlets.  Most recently, she was interviewed in May 2018 and appeared in a Chanel 4 News ‘So What?’ video on Are millennials poorer than past generations of young adults?  On the same topic, she was also quoted by Yvonne Roberts in an article on Millennials are struggling. Is it the fault of the baby boomers? in The Guardian in April 2018.  In February 2018, she took part in a Radio 4 You and Yours programme, talking about changing attitudes to credit.  And in April, she was invited back by Radio 4 You & Yours to take part in their Debt Special programme. 

Policy experience

From 2016-2017 Karen was the Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on Financial Exclusion. She has provided policy advice to a range of different government departments and non-government organisations on financial inclusion, poverty and inequality.