THE number of households on inadequate incomes has risen by a fifth in three years, according to new research by the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The organisation said the onset of the recession, cuts to benefits and tax credits and the rising cost of essentials were to blame.

The latest figures show the number of households living below an acceptable standard has increased by 900,000 since 2008/2009.

It means 67 per cent of single parents with between one and three children, and 28 per cent of couples with between one and four children, were falling short of the standard in 2011/2012.

The study, carried out by the Centre for Research in Social Policy, also found 36 per cent of single working-age households failed to achieve a decent standard of living – set at £185 a week after housing costs.

Income adequacy is measured by the Minimum Income Standard (MIS), which is what the public think is needed for a minimum socially acceptable standard of living in the UK.

Members of the public are asked to list items that would need to go into a basket of goods and services in order to achieve an acceptable living standard.

The figures in 2011 – after covering housing and childcare costs – were £185 for a single person, £287 for couples without children, £326 for a lone parent with two children, £425 for couples with two children and £233 per week for pensioner couples. The study used the latest available data on household incomes.

Donald Hirsch, co-author of the report, said: “Young people, single people and people in private rented housing have done particularly badly relative to the Minimum Income Standard during the downturn.

“A whole generation of young adults are noticeably worse off as a result of the deterioration in their job prospects, a worsening of housing options and falls in real wages and benefits, making it harder for young people to be independent.”

Katie Schmuecker, policy and research manager at JRF, said: “Many people have seen downward pressure on their living standards, but for those on low and modest incomes more are having to make tough choices about what essentials to go without.”