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Are We All Agreed? Consensual Methods and the ‘Necessities of Life’ in the UK Today

  • ELDIN FAHMY (a1), EILEEN SUTTON (a2) and SIMON PEMBERTON (a3)

Abstract

In recent decades, consensual approaches to poverty measurement have been widely adopted in large-scale survey research both in the UK and internationally. However, while ascertaining the extent of public agreement on the ‘necessities of life’ has been central to this approach, long-standing critiques have questioned the nature of public consensus on poverty derived using survey methods. By drawing on new primary research preparatory to the 2012 UK Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey, we consider the contribution of qualitative methods in understanding public views on necessities and discuss their implications for survey-based poverty measurement. Our findings raise some important conceptual and measurement issues for consensual poverty measures within large-scale social surveys. Firstly, our research suggests that public understandings of the term ‘necessity’ are diverse and may not always be consistent with researchers’ interpretations or with wider usage of this term within consensual poverty measurement. Secondly, a better understanding of the considerations which inform survey respondents’ deliberations is needed. Thirdly, our findings have important implications for how we should interpret the concept of ‘consensus’ within the context of consensual poverty surveys, and emphasise the need for the application of more deliberative methods in determining public views on the ‘necessities of life’.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Journal of Social Policy
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