Much of our work falls within four key research areas: poverty, housing, social security, and economics. As well as analysing these areas in their own right, we also look at the links between them.
Our work on poverty, and its links with social exclusion, goes back more than fifteen years. At the heart of the work is the view that, in a market economy such as ours income matters, so households with low incomes face a range of disadvantages.
This work covers the whole of the UK, looking at the variations in both levels and types of poverty in different parts of the country. We also look internationally, comparing the various approaches taken by different countries to tackling poverty.
Since 2011 the social security system in the UK has undergone a series of changes, with the biggest change, the introduction of universal credit, still to come. In fact, social security has been a target of reformers almost since its inception, with benefits introduced, removed, expanded and reduced on an almost annual basis.
Our work on social security seeks to put these new changes into their historical context and asks questions about both their aims and their effectiveness. The overlap with our work on poverty is obvious, but our analysis goes further than this. Do these reforms work on their own terms?
The cost, quality and suitability of housing has been an increasing focus of our work in recent years. Our work for the Trust for London has shown how housing is key to understanding the levels of poverty and inequality in the capital. Our poverty monitoring reports have shown how the rising number of people in the private rented accommodation has been accompanied by rising poverty in that sector.
But our interest in housing goes beyond the links with poverty. We have carried out extensive research into the supply, demand and choices in retirement housing. This is a sector that sits outside the housing market as it is usually understood, but is relied upon by a growing number of people. Our role in the research was to illuminate the complexities in the system as and show the flaws in the existing incentives to save.
NPI's approach to analysis always begins with the data and the macro economy is one area with a wealth of data, not all of it understood. While our studies of poverty, housing and social security lend themselves to focussing on specific policies and solutions, looking at the macro economy allows us to step back and look at the assumptions that underpin the very areas we study.
For instance, there has been, since 2009, a cross party consensus that the government, of whatever colour, should focus on reducing the public sector deficit. But our analysis of the data shows that this is impossible to do by focussing on the deficit alone. Rather, the deficit is a reflection of opposing stocks and flows of money. A narrow concentration on the public sector part of it misses the bigger points around the role of corporations. This balance, between public and private, is what our research seeks to explore.