Torsten Bell

As growth slows UK households have already taken a £1,500 living standards hit since the referendum

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Today we learnt that economic growth slowed significantly at the end of 2018, with GDP only growing by 0.2 per cent in the last three months of the year. This is around a third of the pre-crisis average rate. In December alone, the economy contracted by 0.4 per cent with the manufacturing sector now having … Continued

Incomes
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Prices & consumption

Guest blog: When the ONS changes its mind, economic policy and political reputation are on the line

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In these ‘post-expert’ times, it’s worth remembering that good policy rests on good evidence. Our fiscal and monetary institutions don’t just set policy with reference to economic theory, but in relation to what’s going on in the economy. So – as we heard earlier this week – when history gets re-written in a way that … Continued

Living standards
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Incomes
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Prices & consumption

Hey big spender!

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Todays’ annual Family Spending release contains the usual treasure trove of information on what UK households spent their money on last year. Households spent a lot. Average weekly spending rose (after adjusting for inflation) by 4 per cent from £533 to £554 between 2015-16 and 2016-17 – the sharpest increase for well over a decade … Continued

Living standards
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Incomes

Did raising tuition fees flatter measurements of young people’s incomes?

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The government has announced that the maximum annual tuition fee will be frozen at £9,250; and that the earnings threshold for repayment will jump from £21,000 to £25,000. What’s more, there will be a wide review of student finances to “look again” at this turbulent political issue. While they’re doing that, government statisticians should look … Continued

Living standards
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Incomes
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Inequality & poverty

Vast gaps in living standards between ethnic groups persist — and recent progress could yet be undone

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We talk a lot about certain types of income inequality—the recent outcry over unequal pay at the BBC springs to mind—but the specifics of ethnic economic inequalities rarely get enough air time. Though only scratching the surface of such a complex topic, my recent Resolution Foundation briefing on the gaps in household incomes for different ethnicities sought … Continued

Torsten Bell
Living standards
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Incomes
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Inequality & poverty

Despite the economic gloom, living standards for BAME groups are finally catching up

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Good news is undervalued. Partly because it doesn’t make as good headlines and partly because there hasn’t been much of it around after a fairly grim decade since the financial crisis. So here’s some: since the turn of the millennium living standards gaps between different ethnic groups have been narrowing in Britain. Since 2002 White … Continued

Matthew Whittaker
Living standards
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Incomes
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Inequality & poverty
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Cities and regions

When it comes to living standards, geography matters

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A slowdown in economic growth and the recent return of the pay squeeze has focused attention once again on the extent to which absolute living standard improvements have stalled across UK households since the financial crisis of 2008. But the distribution of gains and losses matters too – especially in the context of a vote … Continued

Torsten Bell
Living standards
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Incomes
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Inequality & poverty

Let’s avoid a poor rerun of the 1980s

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The 1980s deserve a bad reputation. Sweatbands, leg warmers, and diverse crimes against hair –think perms and mullets, feathered or otherwise. Then we start on the self-indulgence of the music and the fact that Rick Astley was allowed an entire career. Yes we had the Smiths but even Bob Dylan had a bad decade. On … Continued

Matthew Whittaker
Living standards
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Incomes
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Prices & consumption
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Economy and public finances

Theresa May needs to spread the jam more thickly

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Since taking office in July, Theresa May has made it clear that she wants to put the ‘just about managing’ – those working families struggling to get by – at the heart of her government’s agenda. Yet Wednesday’s Autumn Statement, which provided the first opportunity for setting out a package of support, proved less jam-packed … Continued

Living standards
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Incomes
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Inequality & poverty

The “just managing” need deeds, not words

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Theresa May has identified the fortunes of “just about managing” working families as her priority in post-Brexit Britain. A new government’s rhetoric precedes real outcomes against which it can be judged. But from one point of view, May’s talk about the low-paid looks well timed. Employment remains on an upward march, and after the longest … Continued

Living standards
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Budgets & fiscal events
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Incomes
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Economy and public finances

Will the new Chancellor pass the first major test of support for ‘just managing families’ in his Autumn Statement?

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We are approaching the time of the football season where managers start to lose their jobs. New appointees inevitably face lots of problems, but they have an opportunity to make a name for themselves by turning things around. The key is to identify where problems are and take effective and rapid action. Even with intense … Continued

Torsten Bell

The 14p stealth tax rise that is hammering ‘just managing families’

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Judging new governments‎ is hard. Without decisions taken, let alone results delivered, we are left to judge the early months of an administration by the purpose that ‎motivates it. On this measure how does the first three months of Theresa May’s government measure up? First and foremost of course this government is about delivering Brexit. … Continued

Torsten Bell
Incomes
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Economic growth
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Globalisation

Elephants, globalisation, and why we shouldn’t let domestic policy makers off the hook on living standards

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From political rallies to university seminars, it is becoming fashionable to say that globalisation has led to stagnant living standards for working and middle classes of the developed world, leaving national governments powerless to deliver rising incomes and explaining rising political dissatisfaction with the status quo. But these are dangerous words in such simple form, … Continued

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