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Five Decades of Consumption and Income Poverty

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  • Bruce D. Meyer
  • James X. Sullivan

Abstract

This Paper examines poverty in the United States from 1960 through 2005. We investigate how poverty rates and poverty gaps have changed over time, explore how these trends differ across family types, contrast these trends for several different income and consumption measures of poverty, and consider explanations for the differences in trends. We document sharp differences, particularly in recent years, between different income poverty measures, and between income and consumption poverty rates and gaps. Moving from the official pre-tax money income measure to a disposable income measure that incorporates taxes and transfers has a substantial effect on poverty rate changes over the past two decades. Furthermore, consumption poverty rates often indicate large declines, even in recent years when income poverty rates have risen. We show that bias in the CPI-U has a sizable effect on changes in poverty. Between the early 1960s and 2005, an Income poverty measure that corrects for bias in this price Index declines by 14 percentage points more than a comparable measure based on the CPI-U. The patterns are very different across family types, with consumption poverty falling much faster than income poverty since 1980 for the elderly, but more slowly for married couples with children. Income and consumption measures of deep poverty and poverty gaps have generally moved sharply in opposite directions in the last two decades with income deep poverty and poverty gaps rising, but consumption deep poverty and poverty gaps falling. While relative poverty rose in the early 1980s, changes in relative poverty have been fairly small since 1990. We examine the role that demographics, taxes, and transfers play in explaining changes in poverty over the past three decades. We also consider whether measurement error, saving and dissaving, and other explanations can account for income and consumption differences

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 0907.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0907

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Keywords: poverty rates; poverty gaps; consumption measures; income measure; pre-tax money; CPI-U; income poverty; consumption poverty; demographics;

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References

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  1. Kevin Lang, 2007. "Introduction to Poverty and Discrimination
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    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  2. Jerry Hausman, 2003. "Sources of Bias and Solutions to Bias in the Consumer Price Index," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 23-44, Winter.
  3. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley & Guglielmo Weber, 2002. "Asking Consumption Questions in General Purpose Surveys," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 77, McMaster University.
  4. Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2008. "Changes in the Consumption, Income, and Well-Being of Single Mother Headed Families," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 2221-41, December.
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  6. Bruce D. Meyer & Wallace K. C. Mok & James X. Sullivan, 2009. "The Under-Reporting of Transfers in Household Surveys: Its Nature and Consequences," Working Papers 0903, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  7. Ernst R. Berndt, 2006. "The Boskin Commission Report After a Decade: After-life or Requiem?," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 12, pages 61-73, Spring.
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  22. Slesnick, Daniel T, 1993. "Gaining Ground: Poverty in the Postwar United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(1), pages 1-38, February.
  23. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Robert A. Moffitt & John Karl Scholz, 2009. "Trends in the Level and Distribution of Income Support," NBER Working Papers 15488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Bruce D. Meyer & Wallace K. C. Mok & James X. Sullivan, 2009. "The Under-Reporting of Transfers in Household Surveys: Its Nature and Consequences," Working Papers 0903, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  3. Erich Battistin & Mario Padula, 2010. "Survey Instruments and the Reports of Consumption Expenditures: Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys," CSEF Working Papers 259, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  4. Adam Bee & Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2013. "The Validity of Consumption Data: Are the Consumer Expenditure Interview and Diary Surveys Informative?," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Wankyo Chung & Beomsoo Kim, 2012. "Money Transfer and Birth Weight: A Causal Link from Alaska," Discussion Paper Series 1202, Institute of Economic Research, Korea University.
  6. William Passero & Thesia I. Garner & Clinton McCully, 2012. "Understanding the Relationship: CE Survey and PCE," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. William Passero & Thesia I. Garner & Clinton McCully, 2013. "Understanding the Relationship: CE Survey and PCE," Working Papers 462, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  8. Jones, Carol Adaire & Milkove, Daniel & Paszkiewicz, Laura, 2010. "Farm Household Well-Being: Comparing Consumption- and Income-Based Measures," Economic Research Report 58299, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  9. Bettina Aten & Eric Figueroa & Troy Martin, 2012. "How can the American Community Survey (ACS) be used to improve the imputation of Owner-Occupied Rent Expenditures?," BEA Working Papers 0080, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  10. Orazio Attanasio & Erik Hurst & Luigi Pistaferri, 2014. "The Evolution of Income, Consumption, and Leisure Inequality in the US, 1980-2010," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Jonathan A. Parker & Nicholas S. Souleles & Christopher D. Carroll, 2013. "The Benefits of Panel Data in Consumer Expenditure Surveys," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Marta Moratti, 2010. "Consumption Poverty and Pro-Poor Growth in Bolivia," Working Paper Series 1310, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
  13. Christopher D. Carroll, 2012. "Representing Consumption and Saving Without A Representative Consumer," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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