Falling short: the experiences of families living below the minimum income standard

This qualitative research study of thirty families living between 10 and 50 per cent below the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) considers how well families cope on low income, what factors influence this and how they prioritise spending. It finds that families in this situation often face an unstable or uncertain world, including unstable work and for some the uncertainties of privately rented housing, and that they greatly value stability. It identifies factors that help or hinder family well-being, including health conditions, the availability of extended family support and whether there is a background of debt. In considering how they deploy family budgets that are insufficient to cover all the items agreed as essential in the MIS research, the study found that parents prioritise children’s well-being over their own to a considerable degree. It also identifies ways in which family needs are served differently when resources are limited, such as spending more on recreation within the home when external activities are unaffordable.