Behind a Stable Poverty Rate: Changes in the Duration of Poverty Episodes in the United States since the Mid-1980s
Iryna Kyzyma, University of Bremen
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate did not change much in the United States over the last 25 years: it is estimated at 15 percent in the late 2000s as in the mid-1980s. This paper aims to look ‘behind’ the stability of the US official poverty rate by investigating what has happened to the underlying duration of poverty episodes. We propose a methodological framework which makes it possible to estimate the entire duration distribution of poverty episodes and decompose its change over time into the contributions induced by the changes in the composition of the poor and the structure of poverty. Using monthly data from the 1984 and 2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we show that the share of individuals with long poverty episodes has increased over time. This increase has happened mainly due to the changes in the structure of poverty.