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Climbing Out of Poverty, Falling Back In: Measuring the Persistence of Poverty over Multiple Spells

  • Ann Huff Stevens

This paper investigates the persistence of poverty over individuals' lifetimes using a hazard rate, or spells approach. Previous research on poverty dynamics using the spells approach has been limited by its failure to take into account multiple episodes of poverty. I estimate hazard models for exiting from and for returning to poverty and use the estimated parameters to calculate distributions of total time spent in poverty over multiple spells, using longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. These models incorporate observable personal and household characteristics, as well as unobserved heterogeneity. My findings emphasize the importance of considering multiple spells in an analysis of poverty persistence. For black and white individuals falling into poverty in some year, approximately 50 and 30 percent, respectively, will have family income below the poverty line in at least five of the next ten years. A single spells approach predicts comparable figures of only 26 and 13 percent. To check the robustness of these predictions I also utilize two alternative approaches -- direct tabulations from panel data and estimation of a components-of-variance model -- and compare predictions of poverty persistence based on the three methods.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5390.

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Date of creation: Dec 1995
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Human Resources (Summer 1999).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5390
Note: LS
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  1. Daniel E. Sichel, 1989. "Business cycle asymmetry: a deeper look," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 93, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Lillard, Lee A & Willis, Robert J, 1978. "Dynamic Aspects of Earning Mobility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(5), pages 985-1012, September.
  3. Gottschald, Peter T, 1982. "Earnings Mobility: Permanent Change or Transitory Fluctuations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 64(3), pages 450-56, August.
  4. Gottschalk, Peter & Moffitt, Robert A, 1994. "Welfare Dependence: Concepts, Measures, and Trends," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 38-42, May.
  5. John C. Ham & Samuel Rea, 1986. "Unemployment Insurance and Male Unemployment Duration in Canada," Working Papers 592, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. Heckman, James & Singer, Burton, 1984. "A Method for Minimizing the Impact of Distributional Assumptions in Econometric Models for Duration Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 271-320, March.
  7. 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.
  8. Thomas S. Coleman, 1989. "Unemployment Behavior: Evidence from the CPS Work Experience Survey," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(1), pages 1-38.
  9. Neftci, Salih N, 1984. "Are Economic Time Series Asymmetric over the Business Cycle?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(2), pages 307-28, April.
  10. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-45, March.
  11. Baker, Michael, 1997. "Growth-Rate Heterogeneity and the Covariance Structure of Life-Cycle Earnings," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(2), pages 338-75, April.
  12. Hamilton, James D, 1989. "A New Approach to the Economic Analysis of Nonstationary Time Series and the Business Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 357-84, March.
  13. 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.
  14. Karl Ashworth & Martha Hill & Robert Walker, 1994. "Patterns of childhood poverty: New challenges for policy," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(4), pages 658-680.
  15. repec:mpr:mprres:652 is not listed on IDEAS
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