Vimes Boots Index

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The Vimes Boots Index (or Vimes Boots Poverty Index) is an initiative created in January 2022 by UK equality and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe. It is named after the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness, as featured in Men at Arms.

The Index is intended to be a record of prices of the lowest-cost staple foods over time, to demonstrate the disproportionate impact of inflation and supermarket pricing practices on the poor. The Pratchett Estate – and Rhianna Pratchett particularly – wholeheartedly endorsed this use of Vimes’ name.

One major motivation behind the Index was to highlight how cost of living data given by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the UK, particularly the inflation rate, didn't adequately show the greater impact experienced by the poor. While inflation is frequently mentioned in discussions of the Index, it's also about the central economies-of-scale argument of the original Boots Theory: the cheapest staples are often not as economical as more expensive but better value products, i.e. someone with extremely limited funds can't by a month's worth of pasta to get the bulk discount when they only have enough each week for the cheaper bag that'll only last a few meals.

News of the Index, and a call for data, was mostly spread via Twitter using the hashtag #VimesBootsIndex. Monroe initially hoped to publish a first edition of the index in February 2022. Soon after news of the Index was picked up widely in the press, the ONS acknowledged the shortcomings of their existing methods, and said they would include income factors in future assessments of the cost of living. In fact, their first results were published in an experimental ONS report from October 2022, which is basically the Vimes Boots Index in all but name: it documents the real change in lowest-priced staples between April 2021 and September 2022. This largely replaced the need for the independent Index, which hasn't so far been published.

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