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Economic Well-Being at Older Ages: Income- and Consumption-Based Poverty Measures in the HRS

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  • Michael D. Hurd
  • Susann Rohwedder

Abstract

According to economic theory, well-being or utility depends on consumption. However, at the household level, total consumption is rarely measured because its collection requires a great deal of survey time. As a result income has been widely used to assess economic well-being and poverty rates. Yet, because households can use wealth to consume more than income, an income-based measure of well-being could yield misleading results for many households, especially at older ages. We use data from the Health and Retirement Study to find income-based poverty rates which we compare with poverty rates as measured in the Current Population Survey. We use HRS consumption data to calculate a consumption-based poverty rate and study the relationship between income-based and consumption-based poverty measures. We find that the poverty rate based on consumption is lower than the income-based poverty rate. Particularly noteworthy is the much lower rate among the oldest single persons such as widows. The explanation for the difference is the ability to consume out of wealth.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12680.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12680

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Cited by:
  1. Cherchye, Laurens & De Rock, Bram & Vermeulen, Frederic, 2012. "Economic well-being and poverty among the elderly: An analysis based on a collective consumption model," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 985-1000.
  2. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2010. "The Effects of the Economic Crisis on the Older Population," Working Papers wp231, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  3. Christopher House & John Laitner & Dmitriy Stolyarov, 2006. "Home Production by Dual Earner Couples and Consumption During Retirement," Working Papers wp143, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  4. 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.
  5. Jones, Carol Adaire & Milkove, Daniel & Paszkiewicz, Laura, 2009. "Measuring Farm Household Well-Being: Comparing Consumption and Income-based Measures," 2009 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, 2009, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 49355, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

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