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Poor, or just feeling poor ? on using subjective data in measuring poverty

  • Ravallion, Martin

The challenges faced in calibrating poverty and welfare measures to objective data have long been recognized. Until recently, most economists have resisted a seemingly obvious solution, namely to ask people themselves:"Do you feel poor?"The paper studies the case for and against this approach. It is argued that, while one would not want to use self-assessments as welfare metrics in their own right, there is scope for using such data to help calibrate multidimensional measures. Indeed, the idea of a"social subjective poverty line"(below which people tend to think they are poor, but above which they do not) is arguably the most conceptually appealing way of defining poverty. However, the paper points to a number of concerns that have received insufficient attention, including the choice of covariates, survey design issues, measurement errors, frame-of-reference effects, and latent heterogeneity in personality traits and personal tradeoffs. Directions for future research are identified.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5968.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2012
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5968
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  1. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," CEPR Discussion Papers 6944, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  3. Clark, Andrew E. & Senik, Claudia, 2009. "Who Compares to Whom? The Anatomy of Income Comparisons in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 4414, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Corazzini, Luca & Esposito, Lucio & Majorano, Francesca, 2011. "Exploring the absolutist vs relativist perception of poverty using a cross-country questionnaire survey," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 273-283, March.
  5. Beegle, Kathleen & Himelein, Kristen & Ravallion, Martin, 2012. "Frame-of-reference bias in subjective welfare," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 556-570.
  6. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2000. "Who wants to redistribute?: The tunnel effect in 1990s Russia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 87-104, April.
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  8. Michael Lokshin & Martin Ravallion, 2008. "Testing for an economic gradient in health status using subjective data," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(11), pages 1237-1259.
  9. de Vos, Klaas & Garner, Thesia I, 1991. "An Evaluation of Subjective Poverty Definitions: Comparing Results from the U.S. and the Netherlands," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(3), pages 267-85, September.
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  11. Gabriella Conti & Stephen Pudney, 2011. "Survey Design and the Analysis of Satisfaction," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 1087-1093, August.
  12. Mariano Rojas, 2007. "A Subjective Well-being Equivalence Scale for Mexico: Estimation and Poverty and Income-distribution Implications," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(3), pages 273-293.
  13. J. Solnick, Sara & Hemenway, David, 1998. "Is more always better?: A survey on positional concerns," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 373-383, November.
  14. Michael Lokshin & Nithin Umapathi & Stefano Paternostro, 2006. "Robustness of subjective welfare analysis in a poor developing country: Madagascar 2001," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(4), pages 559-591.
  15. Gero Carletto & Alberto Zezza, 2004. "Being Poor, Feeling Poorer: Combining objective and subjective measures of welfare in Albania," Working Papers 04-12, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
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  17. Kapteyn, A.J., 1994. "The measurement of household cost functions : Revealed preference versus subjective measures," Discussion Paper 1994-3, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  18. Senik, Claudia, 2004. "When information dominates comparison: Learning from Russian subjective panel data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2099-2123, August.
  19. John Knight & Ramani Gunatilaka, 2009. "Income, Aspirations and the Hedonic Treadmill in a Poor Society," Economics Series Working Papers 468, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  20. Theodossiou, I., 1998. "The effects of low-pay and unemployment on psychological well-being: A logistic regression approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 85-104, January.
  21. Nicolai Kristensen & Niels Westergaard-Nielsen, 2007. "Reliability of job satisfaction measures," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 273-292, June.
  22. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2010. "Who cares about relative deprivation?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 171-185, February.
  23. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
  24. Mark P. Taylor, 2006. "Tell me why I don't like Mondays: investigating day of the week effects on job satisfaction and psychological well-being," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 169(1), pages 127-142.
  25. Heckman, James J., 2011. "Integrating Personality Psychology into Economics," IZA Discussion Papers 5950, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  26. Björn Gustafsson & Li Shi & Hiroshi Sato, 2004. "Can a subjective poverty line be applied to China? Assessing poverty among urban residents in 1999," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(8), pages 1089-1107.
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