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Recent research shows that one in five households in Edinburgh live on incomes below the poverty threshold set by the UK Government. Despite the affluence and success of the city’s economy, this is a level of poverty higher than the national average and higher than most other local authorities in Scotland.

Poor people in our society are defined as those whose resources are so far below those of the average household that they are, in effect, excluded from participating fully in society. As a result of poverty, individuals may experience multiple disadvantage through the interaction of factors such as unemployment, low income, poor housing, poor health and barriers to lifelong learning, culture, sport and recreation. In this way, people experiencing poverty are often excluded and marginalised from participating in activities that are the norm for other people. Such exclusion may indeed include barriers which prevent individuals accessing the learning, employment, or higher paid work needed to raise incomes above the poverty threshold.

It is this interaction of low income, disadvantage and exclusion, therefore, which can give rise to a cycle of poverty from which it is difficult for individuals and families to escape without outside support and which makes the addressing of poverty and its effects a key challenge for public sector partners in Edinburgh.

Analysis of poverty and income inequality in Edinburgh shows that:

  • Edinburgh is an affluent city, with average household incomes estimated at 9% above the Scottish average.
  • Despite this, some 22% of all households in the city live on incomes below the poverty threshold. On this measure, Poverty in Edinburgh is slightly above the Scottish average. Only four other Scottish local authorities record levels of poverty higher than Edinburgh.
  • 18% of all households in the city live in material deprivation, or are unable to afford several items regarded by a majority of the population as essentials of life in Britain today.
  • Similarly, 18% of all children in Edinburgh live in low income households. This equates to a total of some 17,600 young people.
  • According to estimates produced by the Child Poverty Action Group, the cost to tax-payers of child poverty in Edinburgh amounts to £156 million per year.
  • 24% of all Edinburgh households were in fuel poverty in 2012. This equates to some 53,600 households in the city.
  • Overall, the city ranks in the top Scottish quartile for incomes, but in the poorest Scottish quartile for indicators of poverty.
  • These average figures mask considerable levels of inequality across the city. In the most deprived areas of Edinburgh, the proportion of households living below the poverty threshold rises to 33%, compared against a city average of only 22%. This level is comparable to the rate recorded in the most deprived parts of Glasgow and almost double the rate recorded across Edinburgh’s least deprived areas.
  • 30% of households in deprived areas cannot afford basic items required for an adequate standard of living. This is three times the rate recorded in the least deprived areas.
  • 25% of children in deprived areas in Edinburgh live in low income families, compared against only 13% in the least deprived.

For more detailed analysis and discussion of these issues:

  • Poverty and Income Inequality in Edinburgh – A full report on Poverty and Income Inequality in Edinburgh was produced for the Edinburgh Partnership in November 2013.
  • Neighbourhood profiles – Analysis of poverty and low income data for each of the 12 Neighbourhood Partnerships in the city was published in July 2014.
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