Publications

Robert Haveman

  • Public Policy Brief No. 46 | November 1998
    Net Earnings Capacity versus Income for Measuring Poverty

    The United States' official poverty measure defines the poor in terms of a family’s actual, yearly cash income relative to an estimate of the income needed to sustain a minimally acceptable standard of living. An alternative definition, designed to reflect a family’s ability to achieve economic independence, would instead rest on its capacity for generating income. Net earnings capacity (NEC) is an indicator of the income a family could earn if all working-age family members work full-time, full-year, at earnings consistent with their age, education, and other characteristics, with an adjustment made for child care costs. NEC is not intended as a replacement for the official measure, but as a supplement. The official measure identifies the population in need of short-term monetary assistance, whereas NEC identifies the population in need of longer-term skill-enhancing assistance in order to become self-reliant. Two general policy approaches to reduce the prevalence of NEC poverty are to increase the level of education and other income-generating characteristics of those with low earnings capacity and to increase the returns they receive for work.

    Download:
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Robert Haveman Andrew Bershadker

  • Public Policy Brief Highlights No. 46A | November 1998
    Net Earnings Capacity versus Income for Measuring Poverty
    The United States' official poverty measure defines the poor in terms of a family’s actual, yearly cash income relative to an estimate of the income needed to sustain a minimally acceptable standard of living. An alternative definition, designed to reflect a family’s ability to achieve economic independence, would instead rest on its capacity for generating income. Net earnings capacity (NEC) is an indicator of the income a family could earn if all working-age family members work full-time, full-year, at earnings consistent with their age, education, and other characteristics, with an adjustment made for child care costs. NEC is not intended as a replacement for the official measure, but as a supplement. The official measure identifies the population in need of short-term monetary assistance, whereas NEC identifies the population in need of longer-term skill-enhancing assistance in order to become self-reliant. Two general policy approaches to reduce the prevalence of NEC poverty are to increase the level of education and other income-generating characteristics of those with low earnings capacity and to increase the returns they receive for work.

  • Working Paper No. 247 | August 1998
    Measurement, Comparisons, and Implications

    The official poverty measure is based on the premise that all families should have sufficient income from either their own efforts or government support to boost them above a family-size-specific threshold. Given the current policy emphasis on self-reliance and a smaller role for government, this measure appears to have less policy relevance now than in prior years. We present here a new concept of poverty based on self-reliance—that is, the ability of a family, using its own resources, to support a level of consumption in excess of needs. Using a measure of net earnings capacity (NEC) to examine the size and composition of the self-reliant-poor population from 1975 to 1995, we find that self-reliance poverty has increased more rapidly than has official poverty. We find that families commonly thought to be the most impoverished—those headed by minorities, single women with children, and individuals with low levels of education—have the highest levels of self-reliance poverty, but have experienced the smallest increases in this poverty measure. Families commonly thought to be economically secure—those headed by whites, men, married couples, and highly educated individuals—have the lowest levels of self-reliance poverty, but have experienced the largest increases. We speculate that the trends in self-reliance poverty stem largely from underlying trends in the United States economy, in particular the relative decline of wage rates for whites and men and the rapidly expanding college-educated demographic group.

    Download:
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Robert Haveman Andrew Bershadker

  • Working Paper No. 180 | December 1996
    Patterns of Work and Earnings among Working-age Males

    The experience that comes with age and the productive capacity of youth are both assets widely underused in the American labor market, according to Research Associate Robert Haveman and co-authors Lawrence Buron and Andrew Bershadker of the University of Wisconsin. To measure the use of American labor, the authors developed an indicator called the capacity utilization rate (CUR). Using male workers for their study, they first determined the earning capacity of males based on such characteristics as basic ability, schooling, skills, work experience, and health status. The earning capacity was then compared with actual earnings to arrive at the CUR.

    The authors found that not only is male labor underused, but this underutilization is increasing, especially among low-skill groups such as minority males who have dropped out of school. Also in decline is the labor utilization of older males. For older males the underutilization is often voluntary-the result of early retirement. For younger males, however, the underutilization is more closely related to exogenous constraints—personal factors such as illness and family responsibilities discourage many from seeking work.

    These declines in labor utilization should be of concern to policymakers. Underutilization of older workers is occurring at the same time that many policymakers think working lives ought to be extended. More worrisome is the underutilization of youth because the nation's production in future years will depend on their labor.

    Download:
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Robert Haveman Lawrence Buron Andrew Bershadker

  • Working Paper No. 123 | August 1994
    Estimates of Forgone Work Hours

    No further information available.

    Download:
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Lawrence Buron Robert Haveman Owen O'Donnell

  • Working Paper No. 122 | August 1994
    An Overview

    No further information available.

    Download:
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Lawrence Buron Robert Haveman Owen O'Donnell

  • Working Paper No. 107 | March 1994
    An Intergenerational Analysis

    No further information available.

  • Working Paper No. 104 | February 1994
    An Empirical Exploration of Determinants

    No further information available.

    Download:
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Robert Haveman Lawrence Buron

  • Working Paper No. 97 | August 1993

    While discussion about health care encompasses a wide array of issues—inadequate access, the growing share of national resources devoted to health care, the incidence of cost-shifting from the uninsured to the insured, and differences in premium costs between seemingly similar insured individuals—growing significance has been placed on how aspects of the current system may create distortions in the labor market. Some of these issues are addressed in this working paper, including the extent to which labor market mobility is hampered by the nonportability of employer-provided insurance.

    Download:
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Lawrence Buron Robert Haveman Owen O'Donnell

  • Working Paper No. 60 | July 1991
    Patterns of Official and Net Earnings Capacity Poverty, 1973–88

    In this paper we study changes in the prevalence and composition of poverty in the United States over the 1973–1988 period, focusing on the first and last years. Over this period, official poverty rose from 23.6 million people (11.4 percent of the population) to 31.9 million (13.1 percent), passing over a peak in the recession of 1981–1983 of over 15 percent of the population.

    The official definition of poverty in the United States compares the total income of families to an officially designated "poverty line" that varies with the size and composition of the family. If the income of a family falls below its poverty line, it is said to be poor. Total poverty in the nation is the sum of the individuals living in families whose income falls below their poverty line.

    One of the most persistent and fundamental criticisms of the official definition is its reliance on a single year of cash income of a family. For many families, annual income is a fluctuating figure. Unemployment, layoffs, income flows from self-employment, the decision to undertake mid-career training or to change jobs, or health considerations may all cause the money income of a household to change substantially from one year to the next. A second fundamental problem with the official definition is its heavy dependence on tastes—in particular, the tastes of the members of the household unit for income versus leisure.

    Both theoretical and empirical work in economics have recognized these limitations of money income as a measure of economic well-being. Many studies have relied on the average of a number of years of a household's income in order to gain a better estimate of "normal" income—income purged of its transitory elements. Others have taken observed, annual consumption to be a better estimate of real economic well-being than annual income (e.g. Mayer and Jencks, 1991). Consistent with the multiyear perspective, early work by Ando and Modigliani (1963) emphasized a life-cycle perspective. They argued for a measure based on a household's optimal level of real consumption in a period, given the presence of the unit's total resources over its remaining lifetime. Becker's (1965) concept of "full income" extends this concept still further, and includes the time available to the household to be allocated to either work or leisure. A further refinement of this full income measure would adjust for differences in the size and composition of the consumption unit, arriving at a concept of potential real consumption per equivalent consumer unit. Such a concept forms a definition of economic welfare or economic position which rests on economic theory and which reflects a more comprehensive set of considerations than one year of cash income (Moon and Smolensky, 1977).

    Here we set forth an empirically tractable measure of economic position—Net Earnings Capacity—which seeks to reflect such potential real consumption. This measure abstracts from transitory events and phenomena, unlike current cash income. It also abstracts from individual tastes for income relative to leisure, again differing from the current income measure. And, it reflects the potential of the consumer unit to generate real consumption. Finally, it adjusts for the size and composition of the family unit. Net Earnings Capacity is designed to measure the potential of a family to generate an income stream (which can then be used to support its members) were it to use its human and physical capital to capacity. Individuals living in those households with the lowest levels of Net Earnings Capacity relative to their needs are considered to be the nation's "truly poor" (Garfinkel and Haveman, 1977).

    We define the concept of Net Earnings Capacity more rigorously, and discuss the empirical techniques that we use in measuring it. Section III presents our empirical estimates of the prevalence and composition of Net Earnings Capacity poverty over the 1973-1988 period. We contrast the nation's "truly poor" families with those families designated as the nation's ''official poor." In Section IV, we estimate the probability that a variety of prototypical families— families with particular constellations of characteristics—will be either officially poor or Net Earnings Capacity poor. Changes in these probabilities over time will indicate both changes in the underlying character of true poverty in the United States and the extent to which the standard poverty measure conveys an inaccurate picture of the true patterns of low economic position. In the final section, we summarize our findings and indicate some of their policy implications.

    Download:
    Associated Program:
    Author(s):
    Robert Haveman Lawrence Buron

Publication Highlight

Policy Note 2022/2
A Race to the Bottom
Measuring Income Loss and Poverty in Greece
Author(s): Vlassis Missos, Nikolaos Rodousakis, George Soklis
April 2022

Quick Search

Search in: