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PhD studentship: Tracking changes in income, expenditure and circumstances for families: An in-depth study

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J Millar
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

We welcome applications for a full-time University PhD studentship to support and work in the Department of Social & Policy Sciences, alongside the Institute for Policy Research.


The Department of Social & Policy Sciences is recognised internationally for the quality of our research under five key research themes.

The Institute for Policy Research foster inter-disciplinary research of international excellence and impact, addressing major policy challenges at local, national and global levels.

The student will conduct their research under the supervision of Professor Jane Millar and colleagues (to be confirmed). Jane Millar is Professor of Social Policy with research interests in social security and family policy, lone parents, employment and poverty.

The project

For most families current income is likely to be the main determinant of living standards. It is the measure that is usually used in poverty research. It is also used to determine eligibility for, and level of, many benefits and tax credits. Much attention has been paid to the issue of the unit of measurement for income – household, family, individual – and the implications and assumptions of different choices. There has also been research into patterns of income sharing and use within families and households. But the issue of the time period over which income is considered has received much less attention. The implementation of in-work tax credits, with the requirement that claimants report their changes in income and circumstances, highlighted that there was considerable variability in these for a significant number of families. Qualitative research following lone mothers for up to five years after the women started work also showed that income took some time to ‘settle down’ into a stable pattern, and for some, did not ever really do so . The most detailed study of income variability in Britain was undertaken by John Hills and colleagues at the LSE, who collected data from 93 families through diaries for thirteen successive four-week periods in 2003/4 . This found ‘considerably greater volatility of income within the year … than many might have expected’ and that the greatest volatility was among those with the lowest incomes. They also found that the families ‘cope with income variability by careful budgeting over periods that are seldom longer than a month, with little margin for error’. Universal Credit will be based on a monthly assessment and a monthly payment period, with potentially significant implications for reporting changes in circumstances and for budgeting.

This project will update the Hills et al study, by collecting income data through two-week income diaries over a time period of at least six months for a sample of families with children. It will also extend their work by including expenditure data in the diary, and by collecting information on changes in circumstances, such as household composition and employment status. It this way, the project will build up a very complete picture of the nature and extent of volatility in income, expenditure and circumstances on a weekly basis.

This will form a three-year doctoral project, with a timetable as below:

year 1 – literature review; clarification of research aims; defining and identifying the sample of families; preparation and piloting of research instruments. Fulfilment of university requirements for confirmation.

year 2 – fieldwork – regular contact with the families to collect diaries; in-depth interview data. Presentation of methodological paper in the department and at SWDTC event. Initial analysis of the data.

year 3 – completion of analysis and writing up. Presentation of paper at the annual Social Policy Association conference.


The successful candidate should:
- fulfil the entrance requirements for a Social & Policy Sciences PhD (
- have at least a strong understanding of social policy and associated research methods (including as appropriate statistical methodologies)
- have an interest in public engagement/research impact

How to apply

Apply online ( to study for a full-time PhD in the Department of Social & Policy Sciences:
- you must quote the project title in section 3.2 of your application: Tracking changes in income, expenditure & circumstances for families: an in-depth study
- you do not need to upload a formal research proposal as this studentship is for a specific project

Complete the application form for an academic-led PhD studentship (

The closing date for the receipt of applications is 12.00 noon (GMT), Thursday 4 February 2016.

Informal enquiries

For project enquiries contact Professor Jane Millar (

For application procedure enquiries email: [Email Address Removed] or tel. 01225 38 6180.

Funding Notes

The award

Funding lasts for three years and includes:
- £14,057 (2015/16 rate) yearly stipend
- Home/EU or the Overseas tuition fees
- annual Training Support Grant

This award will be funded by a one of several studentships with their own terms and conditions (

How good is research at University of Bath in Social Work and Social Policy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 35.55

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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