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The new poor: The social demography of poverty in modern Britain is changing fast – and tackling it will take more than slogans

In the 20th century, social reformers who wanted to find out more about “the condition” of the poor didn’t have to look far. In London, they took themselves off to the East End, in Glasgow, to the Gorbals. Of course, Britain had its genteel poor, whose plight was mined by a host of writers, from Trollope to Orwell. Generally, however, the poor were defined by geographical location and by a visibly ragged appearance. Today, as the new Rowntree Foundation report shows, it is a different world. Poverty in modern Britain not only comes in many guises but is often found where once it was least expected. According to Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion, those meeting the definition of poor – a fluid concept – are increasingly young, in work and living in private accommodation.

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