Tom Adnan-Smith

Tom Adnan-Smith


I am a third year PhD student in the School of Sociology and Social Policy. I graduated from Durham University with a first-class BA (Hons) degree in Criminology in 2014. My undergraduate studies first sparked my interest in themes of inequality, marginalisation, and power.

Following my graduation, I worked as a secondary school teacher until 2020. I taught various social science disciplines to secondary school students aged 14-19. I was passionate about teaching to students in my hometown of Stevenage, and spurred on by my interests in equality and mobility.

However, since graduating from my undergraduate degree I was keen to build a career in research. To this end, I undertook a MA in Social Research at the University of Sheffield in 2020.

The skills and experiences gained during my masters degree enabled me to successfully secure a collaborative studentship award at the University of Leeds. My PhD thesis is title ‘The Changing Dynamics and Social Outcomes of Deep Poverty in the UK’ which is funded by the ESRC and in collaboration with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).



Research interests

My current PhD research involves grappling with the measurement of ‘deep poverty’ in quantitative analysis, and exploring what this measurement can tell us about the dynamics of deep poverty over time.

Official poverty analysis is dominated by the use of headcount poverty measures. Such measures of poverty categorise the population below a given income threshold (the poverty line, typically 60% median income) as ‘poor’. Such measures are problematic as they present a remarkably stable picture of poverty over time and tell us little about inequality beneath the given threshold; an artefact of the way poverty is being operationalised. This is at odds with a period of permacrisis which has left the poor lurging from one set of events characterised by structural upheaval to the next (austerity, COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis), crises which have disproportionately affected the poor(est). The reality is that poverty has deepened during this time. Whilst the aggregate headcount of poverty has remained the same – the poorest have seen their incomes fall further away from the poverty line.

Out of this context, ‘deep poverty’ has emerged as a useful heuristic for understanding the increasing dispossession of the poorest. However, the conceptualisation and measurement of deep poverty is largely inconsistent, with many researchers simply using the term to describe a secondary income threshold beneath the poverty line (a deep poverty line). This is problematic for two key reasons. Firstly, the measurement of income is fairly unreliable, particularly at the bottom of the income distribution, and only ever an indirect indicator of poverty. Secondly, income statistics based on the main household survey data can only ever provide a partial picture of deep poverty, as such surveys exclude non-private households and the homeless from data collection. Such populations are disproportionately more likely to be facing the most severe forms of deprivation. 

My project grapples with these issues, developing a quantitative measure of deep poverty which presents the best available means of capturing deeper forms of poverty using a combination of income and deprivation data. This measure will be used to investigate the transitions of those in deep poverty over time, whether they are lifted out of poverty altogether, into less severe forms of poverty, remain in deep poverty, or disappear from data collection. I hope that this will tell us something interesting about the relationship between income and deprivaiton over time, as well as the dynamics of deep poverty over a prolonged period of time.

Additional research activities

In addition to my PhD research, I have worked as a Research Assistant on the British Academy and Wolfson Foundation funded project Determinants, Dynamics and Policy Implications of Deep Poverty. The project is led by Dr Daniel Edmiston and more information can be found on the project website.

Teaching responsibilties

  • I am currently teaching on the Level 3 module ‘Quantitative Social Research’ within the School of Sociology and Social Policy.

  • Previously, I taught on the Foundation Level module ‘Social Inequalities in Contemporary Society’



  • MA Social Research
  • PGCE Social Science
  • BA (Hons) Criminology