Analysis and action on living standards
The Resolution Foundation is an independent think-tank focused on improving the living standards for those on low to middle incomes. We work across a wide range of economic and social policy areas, combining our core purpose with a commitment to analytical rigour. These twin pillars of rigour and purpose underpin everything we do and make us the leading UK authority on securing widely-shared economic growth.
The Foundation’s established work programme focuses on incomes, inequality and poverty; jobs, skills and pay; housing; wealth and assets; tax and welfare; public spending and the shape of the state, and economic growth.
For more information on our mission, history and recent expansion please read the About Us section of our website
In this annual report, running since 2009, we take a forensic look at both recent and longer-term trends in UK living standards. Living standards are affected by a wide range of factors, and it is only by learning the lessons of what drove improvements in the past that we can hope to restart growth and so fix the future.
The prospects for people’s living standards are a function of two things: the outlook for overall economic growth and the outlook for how different households will share in the gains of that growth. In our annual Living Standards Outlook, we project levels and distributions of household income growth based on current economic and policy forecasts.
Our quarterly Earnings Outlook analyses data on the forces behind current developments in pay, how the fruits are shared, and the short- and longer-term drivers of earnings growth. Along with our publication, you can explore trends in our interactive data dashboard.
The overarching health of the UK labour market directly influences the share of people in low pay. In Low Pay Britain, we explore trends in three of the most crucial factors when considering low pay: employment, wage growth and the minimum wage.
We crunch the numbers for every budget and major fiscal event to project impacts on living standards.
Our work explores the choices being taken by the government with regard to public finances and how these choices may affect different parts of the population, particularly those on low incomes.
Getting a job, and then getting on at work, is the essential means through which households can improve their circumstances. Our research looks at how the changing labour market is affecting the nature of work, with a focus on the growth of self-employment and the rise in insecure forms of work. We look for solutions that enhance economic security without damaging the performance of the jobs market.
Material living standards are the result of labour market outcomes, taxes, benefits, housing and more. Bringing all of these together, we track past, present and projected changes in incomes to assess how the economy is really working for households. We look especially at low-to-middle-income families, and at the various inequalities in modern Britain.
A growing economy comes with improving economic conditions: faster wage growth, increasing employment, and stronger public finances. All of these can help facilitate improvements in the economic position of families, particularly those on low-to-middle incomes. Our work in this area analyses the potential for future economic growth and how it can be shaped so that the benefits can be shared broadly across the economy.
In recent decades household wealth in Great Britain has risen from around three times national income to almost seven times, driven by higher house prices and pension valuations. This rise has profound implications for society, since wealth and assets provide security for all who have it, and power for a few at the top. Recently there have been advances in measurement, but not so much in understanding the implications for society. Our work assesses what the distribution means for living standards today, how wealth taxation could be reformed, and how policy might promote wealth accumulation for all.
The UK’s housing market is not delivering for low-to-middle income families. Families are spending more of their income on housing and getting less for their money; fewer families are enjoying the security of home ownership or a social rented tenancy, with millions more living in the insecure private rented sector; and house prices have surged relative to incomes. Our work focuses on understanding the causes and impact of these developments, and on the appropriate policy responses.
The design of the welfare system is of vital importance in providing support to families and ensuring that work pays. With the ongoing introduction of Universal Credit, perhaps the most far-reaching welfare reform in 70 years, the need to get the right interaction between benefits, taxation and support for services such as childcare is more pressing than ever. Our work examines the impact of the current benefits system on the living standards of UK families, and explores practical improvements that could be made in the future.
Intergenerational fairness has risen up the agenda in recent years. From job and housing insecurity experienced by young people, to a social care system not fit to support older generations, Britain faces living standards challenges that affect different generations in different ways. Responding effectively to these challenges means understanding what’s driving them, and how they can be addressed. The Intergenerational Centre has been set up as a home for this analysis and policy thinking, looking at living standards through a generational lens.
Macroeconomic policy – like the interest rates set by the Bank of England, or the level of spending and taxes set by the Government – affect the overall level of economic activity, and so have an impact on living standards across the board. Such policies play a crucial role in reducing the damage caused by recessions. And this is particularly important for those on low to middle incomes who are often particularly badly affected by a severe economic downturn. Our work seeks to contribute to a better-informed and more inclusive macroeconomic policy debate.
How the government funds public spending – and by how much – are crucial questions for the economy and for inequality. With regular changes in the tax system, our work looks at the implications of new ideas. We also make our own proposals to make taxes both fairer and more reflective of the big trends in society.
Britain’s post-crisis stagnant pay growth presents a serious challenge to living standards. Our work on pay seeks to understand the drivers of this unprecedented squeeze. Underneath this big question we have several areas of focus. One is the problem of low pay, including workers that are ‘stuck’ and what can help them move better paid work. Another is the the minimum wage, which has had a tremendous impact on the labour market in its 20 years, even more so since its increases post-2016, but which now faces an uncertain future. Finally, in addition to our research, every year we calculate the real Living Wage rates for London and the Rest of the UK on behalf of the Living Wage Commission.