'Benefit Street' and the Myth of Workless Communities

Robert MacDonald, Tracy Shildrick, Andy Furlong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


This paper critically engages with two pervasive myths about welfare in the UK which are routinely retailed by politicians and the media. The first is the myth of the family where 'nobody has worked for generations'. The second is the myth of the area where 'nobody works around here'. In undertaking research that sought to investigate the first of these ideas (i.e. that there are families where no-one has worked over several generations), we simultaneously gathered evidence about the likelihood of the second (i.e. that there are localities were no-one is in employment). In this paper we contend directly with the idea that whole streets and neighbourhoods are of out of work and living on welfare benefits, that was the rationale for Channel 4's Benefits Street. The paper shows that this is a powerful and important idea that is shared by leading politicians and think tanks yet it is an idea which bears little relationship to the facts of worklessness and benefit receipt. Thus, the aim of our paper is simple and empirical: is the central idea of 'Benefits Street' true? Are there streets and neighbourhoods in the UK where virtually no-one works?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-268
Number of pages6
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of ''Benefit Street' and the Myth of Workless Communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this