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Measuring the Well-Being of the Poor Using Income and Consumption

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  • Bruce D. Meyer
  • James X. Sullivan

Abstract

We evaluate consumption and income measures of the material well-being of the poor. We begin with conceptual and pragmatic reasons that favor income or consumption. Then, we empirically examine the quality of standard data by studying measurement error and under-reporting, and by comparing micro-data from standard surveys to administrative micro-data and aggregates. We also compare low reports of income and consumption to other measures of hardship and well-being. The closer link between consumption and well-being and its better measurement favors the use of consumption when setting benefits and evaluating transfer programs. However, income retains its convenience for determining program eligibility.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2003. "Measuring the Well-Being of the Poor Using Income and Consumption," NBER Working Papers 9760, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9760
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Bound, John & Krueger, Alan B, 1991. "The Extent of Measurement Error in Longitudinal Earnings Data: Do Two Wrongs Make a Right?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(1), pages 1-24, January.
    4. Atkinson, Anthony B, 1991. "Comparing Poverty Rates Internationally: Lessons from Recent Studies in Developed Countries," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 5(1), pages 3-21, January.
    5. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1998. "Consumption Inequality and Income Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 603-640.
    6. Bollinger, Christopher R & David, Martin H, 2001. "Estimation with Response Error and Nonresponse: Food-Stamp Participation in the SIPP," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 19(2), pages 129-141, April.
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    12. Susan E. Mayer & Christopher Jencks, 1989. "Poverty and the Distribution of Material Hardship," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(1), pages 88-114.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

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

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