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Poverty and Participation in Twenty-First Century Multicultural Britain

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Document pages: 26 pages

Abstract: Peter Townsend argued that poverty could be scientifically measured as a ‘breakpoint’ within the income distribution below which participation collapses. This paper stands on Townsend s shoulders in measuring the level of poverty and participation by: (1) broadening his original measurement of participation; (2) using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) in conjunction with a new dataset including 40,000 households (Understanding Society, 2011; 2013); and (3) taking into account the multi-cultural ethnic nature of British society. We find that participation – defined as lack of deprivation, social participation and trust – reduces as income falls but stops doing so among the poorest 30 per cent of individuals. This may be indicating a minimum level of participation, a floor rather than a ‘breakpoint’ as suggested by Townsend, which has to be sustained irrespective of how low income is. Respondents with an ethnic minority background manifest lower levels of participation than white respondents but the relationship has a less linear pattern. Moreover, the floor detected for the overall population is also replicated when combining all respondents from ethnic groups.

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