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Climbing Out of Poverty, Falling Back In: Measuring the Persistence of Poverty over Multiple Spells

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  • Ann Huff Stevens

Abstract

This paper investigates the persistence of poverty over individuals' lifetimes using a hazard rate, or spells approach. Previous research on poverty dynamics using the spells approach has been limited by its failure to take into account multiple episodes of poverty. I estimate hazard models for exiting from and for returning to poverty and use the estimated parameters to calculate distributions of total time spent in poverty over multiple spells, using longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. These models incorporate observable personal and household characteristics, as well as unobserved heterogeneity. My findings emphasize the importance of considering multiple spells in an analysis of poverty persistence. For black and white individuals falling into poverty in some year, approximately 50 and 30 percent, respectively, will have family income below the poverty line in at least five of the next ten years. A single spells approach predicts comparable figures of only 26 and 13 percent. To check the robustness of these predictions I also utilize two alternative approaches -- direct tabulations from panel data and estimation of a components-of-variance model -- and compare predictions of poverty persistence based on the three methods.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5390.

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Date of creation: Dec 1995
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Publication status: published as Journal of Human Resources (Summer 1999).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5390

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  1. Gottschalk, Peter & Moffitt, Robert A, 1994. "Welfare Dependence: Concepts, Measures, and Trends," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 38-42, May.
  2. Sichel, D.E., 1988. "Business Cycle Asymmetry: A Deeper Look," Papers 85, Princeton, Department of Economics - Financial Research Center.
  3. Hamilton, James D, 1989. "A New Approach to the Economic Analysis of Nonstationary Time Series and the Business Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 357-84, March.
  4. Lee A. Lillard & Robert J. Willis, 1976. "Dynamic Aspects of Earnings Mobility," NBER Working Papers 0150, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Mary Jo Bane & David T. Ellwood, 1986. "Slipping into and out of Poverty: The Dynamics of Spells," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-23.
  6. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-45, March.
  7. Gottschald, Peter T, 1982. "Earnings Mobility: Permanent Change or Transitory Fluctuations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(3), pages 450-56, August.
  8. David T. Ellwood, 1986. "Targeting "Would-Be" Long-Term Recipients of AFDC," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 652, Mathematica Policy Research.
  9. Neftci, Salih N, 1984. "Are Economic Time Series Asymmetric over the Business Cycle?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(2), pages 307-28, April.
  10. John C. Ham & Samuel Rea, 1986. "Unemployment Insurance and Male Unemployment Duration in Canada," Working Papers 592, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  11. Stevens, Ann Huff, 1994. "The Dynamics of Poverty Spells: Updating Bane and Ellwood," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 34-37, May.
  12. Baker, Michael, 1997. "Growth-Rate Heterogeneity and the Covariance Structure of Life-Cycle Earnings," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(2), pages 338-75, April.
  13. Karl Ashworth & Martha Hill & Robert Walker, 1994. "Patterns of childhood poverty: New challenges for policy," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(4), pages 658-680.
  14. Thomas S. Coleman, 1989. "Unemployment Behavior: Evidence from the CPS Work Experience Survey," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(1), pages 1-38.
  15. Heckman, James & Singer, Burton, 1984. "A Method for Minimizing the Impact of Distributional Assumptions in Econometric Models for Duration Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 271-320, March.
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