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Wealthiest households ‘had greater capacity to cope with Covid restrictions’

Josie Clarke, Press Association Consumer Affairs Correspondent
·1-min read

The wealthiest households enjoyed almost five times as much discretionary spending as those with the lowest incomes just prior to the pandemic, suggesting they had greater capacity to cut back during restrictions, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show.

Overall, average weekly household spending in the UK was £587.90 immediately prior to the pandemic, down slightly from £603.10 the year before, according to the ONS’s family spending monitor for the year to March 2020.

This was despite average income increasing modestly during the same period.

Overall, households in the highest income decile spent almost four times as much as those in the lowest decile. However their average disposable income was around 11 times higher, which suggests they had a greater ability to save, the figures indicate.

Before coronavirus, 54% of lower income households’ spending went on essentials such as housing, food and transport compared with 42% of those on the highest incomes.

Households in the highest income decile spent almost five times as much on discretionary areas such as recreation, culture, restaurants and hotels as those in the lowest income decile.

The ONS said the figures suggested those on the highest incomes “may have had greater capacity to cut back on spending when restrictions were imposed during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic”.

Households headed by people aged under 30 spent proportionally more on housing and food (41%) than other age groups (30% to 36%).

This age group, together with those on lower incomes, were among the groups most affected by labour market shocks associated with the pandemic, the ONS said.