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The concept and measurement of asset poverty: Levels, trends and composition for the U.S., 1983–2001

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  • Robert Haveman
  • Edward Wolff

Abstract

American prosperity in the second half of the 1980s together with the booming economy of the 1990s created the impression that American households have done well, particularly in terms of wealth acquisition. In this paper, we develop the concept of “asset poverty” as a measure of economic hardship, distinct from and complementary to the more commonly used concept of “income poverty.” We define a household with insufficient assets to enable it to meet basic needs (as measured by the income poverty line) for a period of three months to be asset poor. The results reveal that in the face of the large growth in overall assets in the U.S. and a fall in standard income poverty over the period from 1983 to 2001, the level of asset poverty increased from 22.4 to 24.5 percent. We also find that asset poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics are over twice those for whites; that asset poverty rates fall monotonically with both age and education; that they are much higher for renters than homeowners; and that by family type they range from a low of 5 percent for elderly couples to 71 percent for female single parents. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10888-004-4387-3
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal The Journal of Economic Inequality.

Volume (Year): 2 (2004)
Issue (Month): 2 (August)
Pages: 145-169

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jecinq:v:2:y:2004:i:2:p:145-169

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Web page: http://springerlink.metapress.com/link.asp?id=111137

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Keywords: demographics; poverty; wealth;

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  1. Donald L. Lerman & James J. Mikesell, 1988. "Impacts of Adding Net Worth to the Poverty Definition," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 357-370, Oct-Dec.
  2. Conchita D'Ambrosio & Edward N. Wolff, 2001. "Is Wealth Becoming More Polarized in the United States?," Macroeconomics, EconWPA 0106006, EconWPA.
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Cited by:
  1. Rakib, Muntaha & Matz, Julia Anna, 2014. "The impact of shocks on gender-differentiated asset dynamics in Bangladesh:," IFPRI discussion papers 1356, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  2. Andrea Brandolini & Silvia Magri & Timothy M. Smeeding, 2010. "Asset-based measurement of poverty," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers), Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area 755, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  3. Lewis, Melinda & Cramer, Reid & Elliott, William & Sprague, Aleta, 2014. "Policies to promote economic stability, asset building, and child development," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 15-21.
  4. Irina Grafova, 2011. "Financial Strain and Smoking," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 327-340, June.
  5. Elliott, William, 2013. "The effects of economic instability on children's educational outcomes," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 461-471.

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