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Does How You Measure Income Make a Difference to Measuring Poverty? Evidence from the UK

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  • Kirstine Hansen
  • Dylan Kneale

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Abstract

Income is regarded as one of the clearest indicators of socioeconomic status and wellbeing in the developed world and is highly correlated with a wide range of outcomes. Despite its importance, there remains an issue as to the best way to collect income as part of surveys. This paper examines differences in how income is collected in a nationally representative UK birth cohort, the Millennium Cohort Study, looking at variations by questions asked and by respondent characteristics before then examining the implications different methods of collecting and reporting income may have for measuring poverty. Results show that less than a third of respondents give consistent information on income between measurement tools. Using multiple questions is associated with a substantially lower response rate but this method generally results in a higher estimate of family income than using a single question. This is particularly true for certain groups of the population—those on means tested benefits, in self-employment and in part-time employment. Not surprisingly then in our analysis of poverty, using a single question produces an inflated proportion of families who could be classified as living in poverty and is less associated with other measures of financial deprivation than the more conservative poverty measure based on multiple questions. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Kirstine Hansen & Dylan Kneale, 2013. "Does How You Measure Income Make a Difference to Measuring Poverty? Evidence from the UK," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 110(3), pages 1119-1140, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:110:y:2013:i:3:p:1119-1140
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-011-9976-5
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John Micklewright & Sylke V. Schnepf, 2010. "How reliable are income data collected with a single question?," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 173(2), pages 409-429.
    2. Marco Francesconi & Holly Sutherland & Francesca Zantomio, 2011. "A comparison of earnings measures from longitudinal and cross‐sectional surveys: evidence from the UK," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 174(2), pages 297-326, April.
    3. Claudia Biancotti & Giovanni D'Alessio & Andrea Neri, 2008. "Measurement Error In The Bank Of Italy'S Survey Of Household Income And Wealth," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 54(3), pages 466-493, September.
    4. Kirstine Hansen & Stephen Machin, 2002. "Spatial Crime Patterns and the Introduction of the UK Minimum Wage," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 64(s1), pages 677-697, August.
    5. Clarke, Philip M. & Fiebig, Denzil G. & Gerdtham, Ulf-G., 2008. "Optimal recall length in survey design," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1275-1284, September.
    6. Jörg-Peter Schräpler, 2006. "Explaining Income Nonresponse – A Case Study by means of the British Household Panel Study (BHPS)," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 40(6), pages 1013-1036, December.
    7. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-484, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lourdes Diaz Olvera & Didier Plat & Pascal Pochet, 2015. "Assessment of mobility inequalities and income data collection. Methodological issues and a case study (Douala, Cameroon)," Post-Print halshs-01205776, HAL.
    2. Lourdes Diaz Olvera & Didier Plat & Pascal Pochet, 2015. "Assessment of mobility inequalities and income data collection. Methodological issues and a case study (Douala, Cameroon)
      [Evaluation des inégalités de mobilité et recueil des revenus. Questions mé
      ," Post-Print halshs-01235185, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income; Survey design; Poverty; Measurement error;

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