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The Evolution of Elderly Poverty in Canada

  • Kevin Milligan

The drop in income poverty among the elderly in Canada over the last generation has been well-documented. In this paper, I extend the calculation of head-count measures of poverty to all currently available microdata, spanning the years 1973 to 2003. I then generate consumption poverty measures spanning 1969 to 2004 and compare to the income poverty results. For both income and consumption, I implement a relative poverty measure that uses the wellbeing of working age families as a benchmark for the elderly. I find that income poverty among the elderly decreases sharply through the 1970s and 1980s by all measures. Since the mid-1990s, relative measures of income poverty have increased substantially, reflecting increasing income among the working age and better- off elderly more than an absolute decrease among lower-income elderly. For consumption, a similar downward trend from the 1970s to the 1990s is evident, although the level of consumption poverty among the elderly is very sensitive to the treatment of housing flows and durables. Since the 1980s, a sharp spike in income poverty has emerged between the ages of 55 and 64. Interestingly, no similar spike is found in the consumption data, which may suggest that many families successfully smooth their consumption over a spell of low-income in this age range.

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File URL: http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/sedap/p/sedap170.pdf
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Paper provided by McMaster University in its series Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers with number 170.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:170
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  1. Thomas F. Crossley & Krishna Pendakur, 2002. "Consumption Inequality," Department of Economics Working Papers 2002-09, McMaster University.
  2. Thomas Crossley & Lori Curtis, 2003. "Child Poverty in Canada," Department of Economics Working Papers 2003-06, McMaster University.
  3. Krishna Pendakur, 2001. "Consumption Poverty in Canada, 1969 to 1998," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 27(2), pages 125-149, June.
  4. Agneta Stark & Nancy Folbre & Lois Shaw & Timothy Smeeding & Susanna Sandstrom & Lois Shaw & Sunhwa Lee & Kyunghee Chung, 2005. "Poverty And Income Maintenance In Old Age: A Cross-National View Of Low Income Older Women / Growing Old In The Us: Gender And Income Adequacy / Gender And Aging In South Korea," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 163-197.
  5. Marc Frenette & David A. Green & Kevin Milligan, 2007. "The tale of the tails: Canadian income inequality in the 1980s and 1990s," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 40(3), pages 734-764, August.
  6. Kevin Milligan, 2004. "Life-cycle Asset Accumulation and Allocation in Canada," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 122, McMaster University.
  7. Michael Baker & Jonathan Gruber & Kevin S. Milligan, 2009. "Retirement Income Security and Well-Being in Canada," NBER Working Papers 14667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lars Osberg, 2001. "Poverty Among Senior Citizens: A Canadian Success Story," The State of Economics in Canada: Festschrift in Honour of David Slater, in: Patrick Grady & Andrew Sharpe (ed.), The State of Economics in Canada: Festschrift in Honour of David Slater, pages 151-181 Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
  9. Johnson, Paul & Stears, Gary, 1998. "Why Are Older Pensioners Poorer?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 60(3), pages 271-90, August.
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