DP1686 Poverty and the Welfare State in Inter-war London

Author(s): Roy E Bailey, Timothy J. Hatton
Publication Date: August 1997
Keyword(s): Interwar Britain, Poverty, Social Security, Welfare State
JEL(s): I32, I38, N34
Programme Areas: Human Resources
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=1686

In this paper we re-examine poverty among working class households in inter-war London using the newly computerized records from the New Survey of London Life and Labour (NSLLL), a survey of living standards in London undertaken in 1929?31. First, we examine how the use of different poverty lines affects the number of households found to be in poverty. We then analyse the effects of the inter-war social security system in relieving poverty. Finally, we estimate what difference it would have made to the extent and incidence of poverty if the post-Beveridge social security system had been in place during the inter-war period. Our main conclusions are that the inter-war social security system had played a greater role in averting poverty than it has sometimes been given credit for, even though substantial poverty remained. The post-Beveridge social security system, if applied in the inter-war period, would have reduced poverty still further, but would not have eliminated it.