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Measuring The Distribution Of Well-Being: Why Income and Consumption Give Different Answers

  • Sabelhaus, John
  • Schneider, Ulrike
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    Annual, before-tax income is the most common official statistic used to measure economic well-being and therefore underlies the design of most anti-poverty programs or other redistributive economic policies. Notwithstanding, extended income measures as well as consumption based measures are gaining increasing currency in scientific analysis of economic well-being. Our findings suggest that a consumption-based measure gives very different answers about relative economic standing across income and age groups, and somewhat different answers about trends in resources over time. More importantly, by explicitly measuring the relationship between income and consumption across groups and time, we are able to evaluate how differences in effective taxation, saving rates, and investment in consumer durables affect the alternative measures of economic well-being.

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    Paper provided by Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät in its series Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) with number dp-201.

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    Length: 31 pages
    Date of creation: Mar 1997
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:han:dpaper:dp-201
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    1. Sabelhaus, John, 1993. "What is the Distributional Burden of Taxing Consumption?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 46(3), pages 331-44, September.
    2. 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.
    3. Smeeding, Timothy M, et al, 1993. "Poverty, Inequality, and Family Living Standards Impacts across Seven Nations: The Effect of Noncash Subsidies for Health, Education and Housing," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 39(3), pages 229-56, September.
    4. A. L. Robb & J. B. Burbidge, 1989. "Consumption, Income, and Retirement," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 22(3), pages 522-42, August.
    5. Hanratty, Maria J & Blank, Rebecca M, 1992. "Down and Out in North America: Recent Trends in Poverty Rates in the United States and Canada," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 233-54, February.
    6. Hurd, Michael D, 1990. "Research on the Elderly: Economic Status, Retirement, and Consumption and Saving," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 565-637, June.
    7. A. L. Robb & L. Magee & J. B. Burbidge, 1992. "Kernel Smoothed Consumption-Age Quantiles," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 25(3), pages 669-80, August.
    8. John Sabelhaus & Joyce Manchester, 1995. "Baby Boomers and Their Parents: How Does Their Economic Well-Being Compare in Middle Age?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(4), pages 791-806.
    9. David M. Cutler & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "Macroeconomic Performance and the Disadvantaged," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 1-74.
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