Asset Bias in Household Needs Measurement

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper

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Increasingly, the estimation of household equivalence scales relies on subjec-tive data. This approach challenges not only traditional methodology, but alsoprovides systematically lower estimates of household needs compared to other methods. I offer a novel take on this puzzle and argue that the failure to accountfor private wealth in subjective measurement is part of the explanation of whyhousehold financial needs appear to be low. Wealthy survey respondents claimto be satisfied with less income, as they can draw on their asset buffer to main-tain a given living standard. Capitalising on SOEP survey data, I find that thefinancial needs of a household comprising five members relative to a referencehousehold might be underestimated by up to 20% if wealth is not accountedfor. Equivalence scales are central to poverty and inequality measurement, thedesign of social transfer systems and many other applications. Therefore, it is crucial to account for asset ownership when drawing on estimates that rely onthe subjective methodology.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

SeriesINEQ Working Paper Series

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502046 Economic policy
  • 504007 Empirical social research
  • 504003 Poverty and social exclusion
  • 509012 Social policy

WU Working Paper Series

  • INEQ Working Paper Series

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