Life Chances: low-income families in modern urban settings

This project was completed Autumn 2016.

Life chances is a widely-used phrase, adopted by UK governments to headline their policies on children and poverty. But few realise that the term was coined by sociologist Max Weber to refer to socio-economic disadvantage and inequalities. Governments use it in a very different way: placing responsibility on individuals and society rather than the state.

Project design and delivery was co-produced between community organisations, community volunteers and academics. The focus is exploring life on a low income and the regulatory services that families encounter in two urban settings:

  • The Easton area of Bristol
  • Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown in Cardiff

Project partners are community organisations:

For more further details read the Life Chances Policy Briefing (PDF, 340kB).

The novel

The Life Chances research project produced a novel, co-authored with community volunteers, community partners, researchers and artists. Fictional characters were created, loosely based on individuals’ lives, using factual material to create fictional storylines, describing the impact of different regulatory systems – such as benefits, housing, immigration, child protection – on their lives.

The novel was launched on the 20th February 2017 and is available to purchase from Amazon.


Jewellery was created by volunteers based on a circular logo, chosen as the symbol of the project, expressing creativity and hopes for a better future. In early 2016, the project constructed alternative images to those used by the Westminster Government for its own life chances agenda.

The project also devised a Game of Life Chances, using the Life Chances logo of two concentric circles, to illustrate the life chances of characters from the novel, and which can be performed by around six or seven players as a performance  – demonstrating that only those in positions of power can get into the middle of the circle where decisions are made.

Members of the Life Chances project travelled up to central London to showcase their work at the Utopia 2016 festival at Somerset House, celebrating the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia.  The Life Chances stall displayed jewellery made by participants and images produced by artists Close and Remote, deconstructing the Government’s Life Chances images.  Members of the public also participated in the Game of Life Chances.

Download festival report (PDF, 219kB).

Key contacts

Project outputs

Productive Margins, University of Bristol
8-10 Berkeley Square, Bristol, BS8 1HH

Tel: +44 (0)117 3940042