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Measuring Poverty among the Elderly

In: Inquiries in the Economics of Aging

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  • Angus S. Deaton
  • Christina Paxson

Abstract

Poverty counts are counts of individuals in poverty but are calculated from household or family data on income or expenditure. The transition from one to the other requires assumptions about intrahousehold allocation, about differences in needs across different people, and about the extent of economies of scale. The number of elderly in poverty, or the number of children in poverty, is sensitive to these assumptions and to differences in living arrangements across age groups. We explore the sensitivity of poverty counts to variations in assumptions about child costs and economies of scale using data from the United States and from six large Indian states. Because living arrangements of the elderly are so different in the United States and India, the use of the latter forces us to think about household structure and poverty in the United States. We argue that the official poverty counts in the United States are compromised by unrealistically high costs of children and by unrealistically high economies of scale. We provide a discussion of how economies of scale and child costs can be estimated from the data, using identifying assumptions that label private goods and adult goods, and we make calculations based on the 1990 Consumer Expenditure Survey. We obtain plausible estimates of child costs, together with a number of interesting but hard-to-explain anomalies when we try to estimate economies of scale.
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Suggested Citation

  • Angus S. Deaton & Christina Paxson, 1998. "Measuring Poverty among the Elderly," NBER Chapters,in: Inquiries in the Economics of Aging, pages 169-204 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7086
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lazear, Edward P. & Michael, Robert T., 1988. "Allocation of Income within the Household," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226469669.
    2. Haddad, Lawrence & Kanbur, Ravi, 1990. "How Serious Is the Neglect of Intra-Household Inequality?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(402), pages 866-881, September.
    3. Lanjouw, Peter & Ravallion, Martin, 1995. "Poverty and Household Size," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(433), pages 1415-1434, November.
    4. Nelson, Julie A, 1988. "Household Economies of Scale in Consumption: Theory and Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(6), pages 1301-1314, November.
    5. J. L. Nicholson, 1976. "Appraisal Of Different Methods Of Estimating Equivalence Scales And Their Results," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 22(1), pages 1-11, March.
    6. Deaton,Angus & Muellbauer,John, 1980. "Economics and Consumer Behavior," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521296762.
    7. Pollak, Robert A & Wales, Terence J, 1979. "Welfare Comparisons and Equivalence Scales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 216-221, May.
    8. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sarmistha Pal & Robert Palacios, 2006. "Old Age Poverty In The Indian States: What Do The Household Data Tell Us?," CEDI Discussion Paper Series 06-08, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University.
    2. 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.
    3. Sarmistha Pal, 2004. "Do Children Act As Old Age Security in Rural India? Evidence from an Analysis of Elderly Living Arrangements," Labor and Demography 0405002, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Oct 2004.
    4. Akanksha Srivastava & Sanjay Mohanty, 2012. "Poverty Among Elderly in India," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 109(3), pages 493-514, December.
    5. R Todd Jewell & Maximo Rossi & Patricia Triunfo, 2006. "El Estado de Salud de los Jóvenes Uruguayos," Latin American Journal of Economics-formerly Cuadernos de Economía, Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 43(128), pages 235-250.
    6. Sarmistha Pal & Robert Palacios, 2011. "Understanding Poverty among the Elderly in India: Implications for Social Pension Policy," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(7), pages 1017-1037.
    7. Pal, Sarmistha, 2007. "Effects of Intergenerational Transfers on Elderly Coresidence with Adult Children: Evidence from Rural India," IZA Discussion Papers 2847, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Leonardo Gasparini & Walter Sosa Escudero & Mariana Marchionni & Sergio Olivieri, 2008. "Income, Deprivation, and Perceptions in Latin America and the Caribbean: New Evidence from the Gallup World Poll," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 3248, Inter-American Development Bank.
    9. Jagannadha Tamvada, 2010. "Entrepreneurship and welfare," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 65-79, January.
    10. Gasparini, Leonardo & Alejo, Javier & Haimovich, Francisco & Olivieri, Sergio & Tornarolli, Leopoldo, 2007. "Poverty among the Elderly in Latin America and the Caribbean," MPRA Paper 42957, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Marchand, J. & Smeeding, T., 2016. "Poverty and Aging," Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, Elsevier.
      • Marchand, Joseph & Smeeding, Timothy, 2016. "Poverty and Aging," Working Papers 2016-11, University of Alberta, Department of Economics, revised 20 Nov 2016.
    12. Manoj K. Pandey, 2009. "On Ageing, Health and Poverty in Rural India," ASARC Working Papers 2009-14, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
    13. repec:ilo:ilowps:455325 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Manoj K. Pandey, 2013. "Elderly's Health Shocks and Household's Ex-ante Poverty in India," ASARC Working Papers 2013-01, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
    15. Máximo Rossi & Patricia Triunfo, 2004. "El Estado de Salud del Adulto Mayor en Uruguay," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 1404, Department of Economics - dECON.
    16. Lee, Yiu-fai Daniel, 2008. "Do families spend more on boys than on girls? Empirical evidence from rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 80-100, March.
    17. Olga Cantó Sanchez & Magda Mercader-Prats, 1998. "Child Poverty in Spain: What can be said?," Papers iopeps98/24, Innocenti Occasional Papers, Economic Policy Series.
    18. Wade Pfau, 2004. "The Impact of a Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment Reduction on the Income Distribution of the Elderly in the United States," Econometric Society 2004 Far Eastern Meetings 694, Econometric Society.
    19. Cameron, L. & Cobb-Clark, D., 2001. "Old-Age Support in Developing Countries: Labor Supply, Ingenerational Transfers and Living Arrangements," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 773, The University of Melbourne.
    20. Pandey, Manoj K., 2009. "On ageing, health and poverty in rural India," MPRA Paper 15932, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    21. Audrey Light & Manuelita Ureta, 2003. "Living Arrangements, Employment Status, and the Economic Well-Being of Mothers: Evidence from Brazil, Chile and the United States," Working Papers 03-06, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
    22. Manoj K. Pandey, 2009. "Poverty and Disability among Indian Elderly: Evidence from Household Survey," ASARC Working Papers 2009-09, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
    23. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & Scott Rozelle, 1998. "Aging, Well-Being, And Social Security In Rural North China," Working Papers benjamin-98-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    24. Sarmistha Pal & Robert Palacios, 2005. "Old Age Poverty In The Indian States: What The Household Data Can Say?," Labor and Demography 0505015, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

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