A growing body of research quantifies the recent impact of fiscal consolidation and public service reform in liberal welfare regimes. However, less is known about how this is affecting the common terms upon which citizenship status is granted and experienced. With this in mind, this article examines what bearing the political crafting of welfare austerity is having on the status, rights and identity of notionally equal citizens. To do so, this article draws on a qualitative study examining lived experiences of poor and rich citizenship in New Zealand and the UK. Despite policy programmes idiosyncratic to their institutional context, both countries exhibit a similarly bifurcated system of social citizenship that is serving to structure, rather than moderate, material and status inequalities in austere welfare regimes.