The Evolution of Elderly Poverty in Canada Kevin Milligan ~ Vancouver School of Economics ~ University of British Columbia

The Evolution of Elderly Poverty in Canada

Canadian Public Policy, Vol. 34, Supplement 1, November 2008.

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The drop in income poverty among the elderly in Canada over the last generation has been well-documented. In this paper, I extend the calculation of head-count measures of poverty to all currently available microdata, spanning the years 1973 to 2003. I then generate consumption poverty measures spanning 1969 to 2004 and compare to the income poverty results. For both income and consumption, I implement a relative poverty measure that uses the wellbeing of working age families as a benchmark for the elderly. I find that income poverty among the elderly decreases sharply through the 1970s and 1980s by all measures. Since the mid-1990s, relative measures of income poverty have increased substantially, reflecting increasing income among the working age and better-off elderly more than an absolute decrease among lower-income elderly. For consumption, a similar downward trend from the 1970s to the 1990s is evident, although the level of consumption poverty among the elderly is very sensitive to the treatment of housing flows and durables. Since the 1980s, a sharp spike in income poverty has emerged between the ages of 55 and 64. Interestingly, no similar spike is found in the consumption data, which may suggest that many families successfully smooth their consumption over a spell of low-income in this age range.

Working Paper January, 2007. SEDAP Research Paper No. 170.
Updated draft January, 2008.
Published version, November 2008. (requires subscription)

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