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Poverty and the economic transition : how do changes in economies of scale affect poverty rates for different households?

Author

Listed:
  • Lanjouw, Peter
  • Milanovic, Branko
  • Paternostro, Stefano

Abstract

Much attention has been paid to the relative vulnerability of two well-defined household groups during the transition. Some observers argue that old-age pensioner households have been relatively protected because of a less steep decline in real pensions compared with wages in most transition economies. By contrast, households with young children are believed to have experienced a substantial decline in living standards under reform and show strikingly higher rates of measured poverty than pensioner households. But others argue that the elderly have suffered more than the young during the transition. Can these conflicting viewpoints about the relatively poverty of old and young households be arbitrated? The authors show that strong (though implicit) assumptions underpin certain poverty comparisons. Notably, using a per capita measure of individual welfare assume that there are no economies of scale in household consumption, in the sense that the per capita cost of reaching a specific level of welfare does not fall as household size increases. Relaxing that assumption could affect comparisons, showing higher poverty rates among the elderly because their households tend to be smaller than the households containing children. Even the nature of the transition has implications for economies of scale. The relative cost of housing and other goods and services with at least some public-good characteristics has risen rapidly. These relative price shifts hit small households particularly hard, because a greater share of their expenditures goes to public and quasi-public goods. But transition economies have also experienced big increases in the relative prices of goods and services consumed largely by children, such as kindergarten and other education services. These increases affect younger households more. Since there is no accepted way to establish the true extent of economies of scale in a given country, the question can't be answered exactly. But clearly a small departure from a per capita measure may be enough in some cases to overturn the conventional relative ranking of poverty headcounts: poverty among the elderly may then turn out to be worse than among children.

Suggested Citation

  • Lanjouw, Peter & Milanovic, Branko & Paternostro, Stefano, 1998. "Poverty and the economic transition : how do changes in economies of scale affect poverty rates for different households?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2009, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2009
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robert K. Triest, 1998. "Has Poverty Gotten Worse?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 97-114, Winter.
    2. 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.
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    4. Pradhan, Menno & Ravallion, Martin, 1998. "Measuring poverty using qualitative perceptions of welfare," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2011, The World Bank.
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    6. Angus Deaton & Christina Paxson, 1998. "Economies of Scale, Household Size, and the Demand for Food," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, pages 897-930.
    7. Lanjouw, Peter & Ravallion, Martin, 1995. "Poverty and Household Size," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(433), pages 1415-1434, November.
    8. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
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    10. Klugman, Jeni & Braithwaite, Jeanine, 1998. "Poverty in Russia during the Transition: An Overview," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 13(1), pages 37-58, February.
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    12. Pollak, Robert A & Wales, Terence J, 1979. "Welfare Comparisons and Equivalence Scales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 216-221, May.
    13. Lanjouw, Jean Olson & Lanjouw, Peter, 1997. "Poverty comparisons with non-compatible data: theory and illustrations," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1709, The World Bank.
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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Anderson, Kathryn & Pomfret, Richard, 2000. "Living Standards during Transition to a Market Economy: The Kyrgyz Republic in 1993 and 1996," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 502-523, September.
    2. Palacios, Robert & Sluchynsky, Oleksiy, 2006. "Social pensions Part I : their role in the overall pension system," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 36237, The World Bank.
    3. Armando Barrientos, 2002. "Old age, poverty and social investment," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(8), pages 1133-1141.
    4. World Bank, 2003. "Turkey : Poverty and Coping After Crises, Volume 1. Main Report," World Bank Other Operational Studies 14624, The World Bank.
    5. Whitehouse, Edward, 2000. "How Poor are the Old? A Survey of Evidence from 44 Countries," MPRA Paper 14177, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Samir Ghazouani & Mohamed Goaied, 2001. "The Determinants of Urban and Rural Poverty in Tunisia," Working Papers 0126, Economic Research Forum, revised 09 Jun 2001.
    7. Disney, Richard & Whitehouse, Edward, 2001. "Cross-country comparisons of pensioners’ incomes," MPRA Paper 16345, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Spryskov Dmitry, 2003. "Below the Poverty Line: Duration of Poverty in Russia," EERC Working Paper Series 03-04e, EERC Research Network, Russia and CIS.
    9. Forster, Michael & Jesuit, David & Smeeding, Timothy, 2003. "Regional Poverty and Income Inequality in Central and Eastern Europe: Evidence from the Luxembourg Income Study," WIDER Working Paper Series 065, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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