How poor are the poor? Looking beyond the binary measure of income poverty

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This paper contributes to the literature by analysing how poor the income poor are in European countries. Using data from the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions, I go beyond average estimates of the intensity of poverty and analyse the distribution of individual-level poverty gaps in each country of interest. As a next step, I identify which personal and household characteristics predict how far away incomes of the poor fall from the poverty line. The results indicate that, in most European countries, half of the poor have income shortfalls not exceeding 30% of the poverty line whereas only a few percent of the poor have income deficits of 80% and more. The results also suggest that traditional poverty correlates (e.g. age, gender, educational background) are not always significantly associated with the size of normalised poverty gaps at the individual level, or the nature of these associations differs as compared to when the same characteristics are linked to the probability of being poor.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Economic Inequality
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Sep 2020


  • cross-country analysis
  • distribition of normalized poverty gaps
  • poverty incidence
  • poverty intensity

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