My research is concerned with living standards measurement, based upon the construction and analysis of micro-datasets from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Current Research:

I am currently Principal Investigator on a £1.15m ESRC project on Global Income Inequality, c.1880-1960 (with Prof Andrew Newell, Co-I). ESRC Global Inequality Project

This project commenced in February 2014 and will use the results of household expenditure surveys to calculate new estimates of global income inequality between 1880 and 1960. There have been no previous attempts to estimate global inequality for this period using household survey evidence, possibly because the extent of recoverable household expenditure survey evidence has not been fully appreciated. Our investigations have located a vast cache of household expenditure surveys for the period. Thus far, around 800 household surveys from around the world have been identified - each carried out between the 1880s and 1960 - of which around half are of sufficient scope to be potentially useful for the investigation of inequality. The geographical spread of these surveys is truly global: 71 from western Europe; 10 from eastern Europe; 53 from South and Central America; 37 from Africa and the Caribbean; 88 from Asia; seven from the Middle East, 110 from North America and five from Australia and Polynesia.We will extract the reported demographic and expenditure data by income group from these reports and use them to estimate parameters of the income distribution. Using these estimates, they will investigate the changing nature of inequality within a number of key nation states and ultimately also estimate the time path and geography of global inequality between1880 and 1960. We will then use these data to estimate other indicators of living conditions, which may provide further insights into the impact of industrialisation on inequality.The project also has a significant knowledge exchange component. In partnership with The National Archives Education Department, the Sussex team will run a teacher-scholar programme for secondary school history teachers.  Teachers will use project and TNA resources to produce lesson plans for global history topics. 

Previous Research:

From 2010-2013 I was Principal Investigator on a £1.14m ESRC project on The Living Standards of Working Households in Britain, 1904-1960 (with Prof. Andrew Newell, Co-Investigator). The major objective of The British Living Standards Project ( was the extraction and analysis of data from the surviving British household expenditure returns carried out by the Board of Trade and Ministry of Labour in 1904, 1937/8 and 1953/4. The 1953/4 household expenditure survey is the largest and most complex of British household surveys (12,900 households). It was carried out at an important point near the beginning of the post-Second World War period, when wartime rationing and controls were coming to an end, but before the affluence of the Golden Age had been widely distributed. Thus the 1953/4 survey acts as a natural benchmark for comparison with earlier and later investigations. It is unique among British household expenditure surveys because it separately records the expenditures of individuals within the household.  Abel-Smith and Townsend used a 25 percent sample of the lowest per capita income groups from this survey for their The Poor and the Poorest (1965), which was hugely influential in setting the social policy agenda of the 1960s. These data have a number of other important long-term potential uses for social research, either as a stand-alone resource or in conjunction with the post-1960 Family Expenditure Survey records.  Outputs for this project can be found here:

 ESRC British Living Standards Project outputs

Part of the work for the British Living Standards Project involved examining changes in food consumption and nutrition during the first half of the twentieth century. Andrew Newell and I have produced estimates of working-class food consumption and nutritional attainment for the period before the Second World War. Recently. Sara Horrell (Cambridge University) and I have examined the nutrition of agricultural labourers' households during the industrial revolution.  We concluded that this important element of household welfare showed no discernible improvement between 1787-96 and 1835-46, thus endorsing pessimistic views of living standards improvements over the first four decades of the nineteenth century 

I am also involved in a research project with Prof. Claire Langhamer (Sussex) on happiness and economic well-being in 1930s Britain, based on the analysis of a Mass-Observation study carried out in 1938.  This inquiry asked respondents to define what happiness meant to them. This was followed-up with a questionnaire that asked individuals to provide details of their occupation, employment status, age and gender, and then to rank order eight factors making for happiness. The survey of 223 individuals was carried out at an important point during the interwar years, when fears of war were growing and unemployment remained stubbornly high.