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Poverty across the Life Cycle: Evidence from the PSID


  • Mark R. Rank

    (George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University, St. Louis)

  • Thomas A. Hirschl

    (Department of Rural Sociology, Cornell University, Ithaca)


The likelihood of experiencing poverty at some point during the adult life cycle is estimated. These probabilities are derived through a set of life tables built upon 25 waves of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, and represent an alternative approach to studying poverty than prior empirical studies. Life table analyses are divided into early adulthood (ages 20-40), middle adulthood (ages 40-60),and later adulthood (ages 60-80). The findings indicate that individuals within the sample face a significant risk of poverty at some point during their adult lives, particularly during the early and later stages of adulthood. Duration tends to be relatively short (1 or 2 years), but once poverty occurs, it is likely to occur again. Results also reveal the profound life-course effect that race, education, and gender have upon the likelihood of encountering poverty during the adult years. Several policy and research implications are discussed. © 2001 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark R. Rank & Thomas A. Hirschl, 2001. "Poverty across the Life Cycle: Evidence from the PSID," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 737-755.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:20:y:2001:i:4:p:737-755
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.1026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Trudi J. Renwick & Barbara R. Bergmann, 1993. "A Budget-Based Definition of Poverty: With an Application to Single-Parent Families," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 28(1), pages 1-24.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander Ahammer & Stefan Kranzinger, 2017. "Poverty in Times of Crisis," Economics working papers 2017-03, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    2. Millett, Lina & Lanier, Paul & Drake, Brett, 2011. "Are economic trends associated with child maltreatment? Preliminary results from the recent recession using state level data," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1280-1287, July.

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