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Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK: Vol. 2The Dimensions of Disadvantage$
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Glen Bramley and Nick Bailey

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781447334224

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447334224.001.0001

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The poverty of well-being

The poverty of well-being

(p.289) Twelve The poverty of well-being
Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK: Vol. 2

Mike Tomlinson

Lisa Wilson

Policy Press

This chapter challenges the popular focus on well-being or happiness as the new over-arching policy goal of public and private sectors. It argues instead for a traditional social policy focus on income distribution and social justice as the means to achieve the greatest improvements in well-being. Using a variety of measures, data from the PSE-UK 2012 survey are analysed to demonstrate the material basis of well-being and low life satisfaction. The results show that average well-being scores for those living in poverty are well below the scores for the non-poor. Living with a limiting illness or disability was also found to have a substantial negative effect on well-being. Overall satisfaction with life falls more sharply as household incomes fall, indicating that there are particular gains to be had from focusing on the material needs of the most disadvantaged. Income redistribution is not therefore a zero-sum game. Rather, the results show that the lives of the poor and the long-term sick and disabled would be measurably improved by lifting them out of poverty and improving their material conditions. All in all, the results challenge the idea that well-being is ‘all in the mind’ and detached from material resources.

Keywords:   well-being, happiness, life satisfaction, social justice, poverty, deprivation

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