Poverty and Inequality

The rural perspective.

Older person warming hands at fire

The Challenge

We often think of rural communities as being generally well off. But need and real hardship can be found even in the most affluent places. This can be individual households who find it difficult to make ends meet, for any number of reasons; it can be parts of a community, be it more isolated houses or a particular development or estate.

Rural families can be caught up in very difficult circumstances, often caused by a combination of factors such as low paid jobs, fewer benefits and lack of local services. The experience of those affected is often hidden and life in rural England can be far from idyllic, in particular for:

  • Young people
  • Low paid workers
  • Older residents
  • Those with limited mobility.


16% (1.5m) of people in rural England are in absolute income poverty.

Plunkett Experian

Financial strains and poverty affect health and wellbeing in any number of ways, from the ability to go places, keep warm, eat well or access opportunities to socialise, find information or learn. As a result, some people will often:

  • Eat nutritionally poor food and skip meals
  • Not heat their homes, leading to cold and damp rooms causing health problems – a particular problem for those not going out for much of the day
  • Be isolated from normal every day activities and services, from shopping to education and health services, and thus also from others within the same community.

A high proportion of those who are economically inactive, but want a job, in rural areas are prevented from working due to a limiting long-term illness, or through other barriers, such as a lack of childcare or transport.

Health and Wellbeing in Rural Areas: Case Studies, 2017

LGA and Public Health England



of households in rural areas live in relative poverty after housing costs are taken into account, compared with 22% in urban areas.

PHE & LGA 2017.

House prices tend to be higher in rural areas and more households experience deeper fuel poverty.

PHE & LGA 2017.

Self-employment can bring insecurity and isolation and, in rural areas, where agriculture, forestry and fishing are among the most significant industries, it can also have a seasonal character, resulting in significant variations in income across the year.

Health and Wellbeing in Rural Areas: Case Studies, 2017

LGA and Public Health England



of working age people in rural areas in 2015 were in employment, compared with 73% in urban areas.

PHE & LGA 2017