Our goal at the Institute for Fiscal Studies is to promote effective economic and social policies by better understanding how policies affect individuals, families, businesses and the government's finances.

Higher inflation means more pain for households from benefit freeze, less gain from £12,500 personal allowance

This morning the Office for National Statistics announced that inflation in the year to September was 3.0%. Because the September inflation figure is used to uprate benefit levels and tax thresholds the following April, this number has implications for the real cut resulting from the four year benefits freeze and the generosity of the Conservative commitment to raise the personal allowance to £12,500. This observation discusses those implications.

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Low-income households increasingly exposed to rent increases

The rented sector is growing. New IFS research finds that the proportion of people in Great Britain living in private rented accommodation has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. Over the same period, average private rents have risen by 33% in real terms. In recent years, low-income tenants have also been affected by substantial cuts to housing benefit , which are currently saving the exchequer around £3 billion per year. The net result is that paying rent now uses up an average of 28% of the (non-HB) income of low-income private renters. This is up from 21% in the mid 1990s. Reforms in the pipeline mean that, if rents continue to rise, support for housing costs will fall further and further behind the cost of housing.

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New higher loan repayment threshold is a big giveaway to graduates

On Sunday, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the income threshold above which graduates start making repayments on their student loans would be increased from £21,000 to £25,000 for all those who started university after 2012, and that the cap on tuition fees at English universities would be frozen at its current level of £9,250. This briefing note examines the impact on graduates, public finances and universities.

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How much would it really cost to write off student debt?

Amid continuing debate over university tuition fees there remains confusion over some important numbers. This Observation looks at the costs involved in some of the policies that have recently been proposed.

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Directory of longitudinal population studies launched

IFS has launched a new searchable directory of Low and Middle Income country Longitudinal Population Studies. Developed on behalf of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust, it aims to provide a valuable resource for researchers, funders and those interested in understanding changing socio-economic and health circumstances and to enhance opportunities for international and interdisciplinary research collaboration.

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Public sector pay: still time for restraint?

The government is considering easing the current restraint on the pay of public sector workers. It had previously announced in 2015 that public sector pay scales would only increase by an average of 1% per year up to and including 2019–20. This briefing note describes the trade-offs faced by the government when deciding how to set public sector pay.

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Two Budgets this year add up to one big problem for Hammond

In the run-up to the second Budget of the year, Paul Johnson looks at the challenges facing the Chancellor in a time of austerity and uncertainty.

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