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Social policies and distributional outcomes in a changing Britain

Researchers: Dr Polly Vizard | Dr Tania Burchardt ...

Project overview

Social policies and distributional outcomes in a changing Britain (SPDO) is a £1 million research programme that addresses the question: what progress has been made in addressing social inequalities through social policies?

The project will provide an authoritative, independent, rigorous and in-depth evidence base for social policies and distributional outcomes in 21st century Britain.

A unique evidence base on trends in social inequalities and social policy

The programme of research adds to the Social Policy in a Cold Climate (SPCC) programme, which covered the period of 1997-2015. The SPDO programme will update, extend and broaden the analysis of public expenditure, social policies and distributional outcomes using the most recent datasets available, resulting in a unique evidence base on trends in social inequalities and social policies going back to 1997. New areas for analysis include:

  • Coverage of additional areas of social policy (e.g., physical safety/security and complex needs/homelessness).
  • Emphasis on the new context for social policy making (e.g., devolution and Brexit).
  • Assessment of a broader range of multidimensional outcomes within the team’s quantitative analysis.
  • Additional breakdowns, such as migration status.
  • A forward-looking component, identifying the key challenges for social policy in the 2020s.

Main research components

  • Detailed and cross-cutting documentation, monitoring and analysis of progress made in tackling social inequalities through social policies over the period of 2015-2020. This will include an in-depth examination of public expenditure, social policies and their immediate consequences for outcomes over this period across 10 major social policy areas (social security and general housing; health; social care; early years; compulsory school age education; higher education; employment; safety and security; social mobility; and homelessness / complex needs). 
  •  In-depth quantitative analysis of distributional outcomes, drawing on a wide range of social survey and administrative data sets, as well as new insights on social attitudes and social mobility. The distributional analysis will cover five critical dimensions of life (living standards, health/care, education, employment and safety/security) with breakdowns by a range of characteristics (age, socio-economic group, ethnic/national/religious migration status and area). 
  • Broader reflection on the changing nature of social inequalities and the progress made in addressing these through social policies (going back to the late 1990s), as well as on the major social policy challenges ahead. This will include analysis of the evolution of social policy making in 21st century Britain; the changing nature of social inequalities; the changing relationship between the individual and the state; changes in the balances between public and private sector roles; and the key challenges looking forward. 

Major dissemination event in 2020

There will be dissemination and engagement activity throughout the three years of the programme to ensure the findings are effectively communicated and debated. The SPDO programme will culminate in a major event assessing social policies and distributional outcomes in 21st century Britain in September 2020.

Latest on this project


  • Dr Polly Vizard
    London School of Economics
  • Dr Tania Burchardt
    London School of Economics
  • Professor (Sir) John Hills
    London School of Economics
  • Dr Abigail McKnight
    London School of Economics
  • Dr Kitty Stewart
    London School of Economics

  • Director, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.