IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Personal Assessments of Minimum Income and Expenses: What Do They Tell Us about 'Minimum Living' Thresholds and Equivalence Scales?


  • Thesia I. Garner

    () (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Kathleen Short

    (U.S. Census Bureau)


Subjective minimum income (MIQ) and minimum spending (MSQ) are the study focus. Basic Needs Module (1995) data from the U.S. Survey of Income and Program Participation are analyzed. A regression intersection approach is used to estimate household thresholds. MIQ thresholds are higher than MSQ thresholds. Both are higher than U.S. official poverty thresholds, and thresholds based on a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) methodology. Subjective threshold based equivalence scales imply greater economies of scale than those in the other two measures but are similar to behavioral scales. This finding suggests that families make trade-offs to meet their minimum needs.

Suggested Citation

  • Thesia I. Garner & Kathleen Short, 2005. "Personal Assessments of Minimum Income and Expenses: What Do They Tell Us about 'Minimum Living' Thresholds and Equivalence Scales?," Working Papers 379, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec050050

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "Asking consumption questions in general purpose surveys," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(491), pages 540-567, November.
    2. Erich Battistin & Raffaele Miniaci & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "What Do We Learn from Recall Consumption Data?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).
    3. Hagenaars, Aldi J M & van Praag, Bernard M S, 1985. "A Synthesis of Poverty Line Definitions," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 31(2), pages 139-154, June.
    4. Nord, Mark, 2004. "Measuring Food Insecurity and Hunger," Amber Waves, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, June.
    5. Callan, Tim & Nolan, Brian, 1991. " Concepts of Poverty and the Poverty Line," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(3), pages 243-261.
    6. Diane Colasanto & Arie Kapteyn & Jacques van der Gaag, 1984. "Two Subjective Definitions of Poverty: Results from the Wisconsin Basic Needs Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(1), pages 127-138.
    7. Craig Gundersen & Victor Oliveira, 2001. "The Food Stamp Program and Food Insufficiency," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 83(4), pages 875-887.
    8. de Vos, Klaas & Garner, Thesia I, 1991. "An Evaluation of Subjective Poverty Definitions: Comparing Results from the U.S. and the Netherlands," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(3), pages 267-285, September.
    9. Garner, Thesia I & de Vos, Klaas, 1995. "Income Sufficiency v. Poverty: Results from the United States and the Netherlands," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 8(2), pages 117-134, May.
    10. Danziger, Sheldon, et al, 1984. "The Direct Measurement of Welfare Levels: How Much Does It Cost to Make Ends Meet?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(3), pages 500-505, August.
    11. Bruce Bradbury, 1988. "Family Size Equivalence Scales and Survey Evaluation of Income and Well-Being," Discussion Papers 005, University of New South Wales, Social Policy Research Centre.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. John Bishop & Andrew Grodner & Haiyong Liu & Ismael Ahamdanech-Zarco, 2014. "Subjective poverty equivalence scales for Euro Zone countries," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 12(2), pages 265-278, June.
    2. Ismael Ahamdanech-Zarco & John A. Bishop & Andrew Grodner & Haiyong Liu, 2011. "Subjective poverty equivalence scales for Euro Zone countries," Working Papers 233, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    3. Gustafsson, Björn Anders & Yue, Ximing, 2006. "Rural People’s Perception of Poverty in China," IZA Discussion Papers 2486, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Thesia I. Garner & Kathleen Short, 2005. "Economic Well-Being Based on Income, Consumer Expenditures and Personal Assessments of Minimal Needs," Working Papers 381, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    5. Thesia I. Garner & Katherine S. Short, 2008. "Creating a Consistent Poverty Measure Over Time Using NAS Procedures: 1996-2005," Working Papers 417, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    6. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Klarita Gërxhani, 2011. "Financial Satisfaction and (in)formal Sector in a Transition Country," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 102(2), pages 315-331, June.
    7. Zsoka Koczan, 2016. "Being Poor, Feeling Poorer; Inequality, Poverty and Poverty Perceptions in the Western Balkans," IMF Working Papers 16/31, International Monetary Fund.
    8. Bjorn Gustafsson & Ximing Yue, 2012. "Rural people's perception of income adequacy in China," China Agricultural Economic Review, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 4(3), pages 264-280, August.

    More about this item


    well-being; sufficiency; poverty; expenditures; SIPP;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec050050. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Gregory Kurtzon). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.