UCL News


New study to explore inequality gaps in the UK

6 March 2019

A multi-disciplinary study exploring the different types of structural inequality in the UK is being led by UCL’s Grand Challenge of Justice & Equality, UCL Public Policy and the Resolution Foundation.

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More than fifty years after equality commissions were first established in the UK, there has recently been increased attention on issues of structural and relational inequality in society. Despite the demographic, socio-economic, and cultural transformations that have occurred over the last few decades, vast inequalities remain.

Recent reporting has found 13.5 million people are living in poverty in the UK. Millennials are four more times likely to be renting, and only half as likely as baby boomers to own their own home by the age of 30. While men and women living in some of the most deprived areas in the UK can expect to spend nearly twenty fewer years in good health compared with those in the least deprived areas.

Exploring Inequalities - igniting research to better inform UK policy, seeks to cut across standard research and policy boundaries by bringing together a broad range of experts from academia, the charity sector, NGOs, government and business to review, synthesise and deepen our understanding of inequality in the UK.

The project is intentionally broad in scope, addressing multiple and inter-related inequalities across four key policy areas: education; employment; health; and housing.

Through a series of roundtables, the study will address the persistence and intersectionality of different equalities across these areas. This will include examining the roots of structural inequalities in UK society and the means by which to engage with policy professionals to affect policy change. Critically, the work will also identify gaps in our collective knowledge that require filling in order to facilitate better policy making at all levels of government.

The study will conclude in July, with a report summarising key findings and areas for further research expected to be published in autumn 2019.

Professor Nick Gallent, co-chair of the study, member of UCL’s Grand Challenge of Justice & Equality working group and Head of Bartlett School of Planning at UCL, said: “Finding ways to close socio-economic inequality gaps in the UK is a hugely important challenge for us all. Our work with the Resolution Foundation is looking at what we know, and don’t know, about the cumulative impact of inequalities across multiple domains – education, health, housing and employment – with a view to highlighting areas for future collaborative research and action.”

Matthew Whittaker, co-chair and Deputy Director at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Inequality has been moving up the political agenda in recent years. Public concern about the issue is at the highest level recorded this century, and politicians across the spectrum have promised action. Yet policy responses too often fail to engage with the structural barriers that are embedded in our society and our institutions - barriers which underpin and perpetuate inequalities over individuals’ lifetimes and across generations.”

“Fixing this failing means developing a better understanding of how structural inequalities manifest themselves in different policy domains, and how they intersect and reinforce each other in order to create barriers that play out very differently for different groups. That’s where we hope our work with UCL can make a difference, bringing together researchers and policy makers working on different aspects of inequality in order to stimulate new thinking and help generate new approaches that deal directly with the root causes of inequality in the UK.” 

Dr Olivia Stevenson, Head of UCL Public Policy, commented: “Debate on inequalities in UK society often masks the complex intersections of the factors that contribute to them. The changing world of work, differential educational attainment, barriers to entering the housing market, an ageing population and the fitness of the welfare state in the 21st century all represent major areas of intersectional inequity and provoke interlinked, generational policy challenges."

“UCL Public Policy and UCL’s Grand Challenge of Justice & Equality are delighted to be partnering with the Resolution Foundation to support an integrated and evidence-based approach which will inform the development of policy to address inequalities and help to shape a more equal society."


For more information about the project, please contact Siobhan Morris siobhan.morris@ucl.ac.uk