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Poverty in the EU using augmented measures of financial resources: the role of assets and debt

Social Sciences
Wednesday 25th November 2020 (13:30-14:30)

Helen Harris:


Dr Sarah Kuypers, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp, Belgium


Poverty research in the rich world relies overwhelmingly on income-based measures. These have clear limitations. We focus on the fact that households may have significant assets that they can draw on to boost their living standards, but may also have debts that depress the living standard they can realise with their income.

Based on data from the Eurosystem Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) this paper offers a picture of poverty in 17 EU countries that takes into account assets and debt, using various approaches. 

While the literature has mainly focussed on the decline in poverty rates when wealth is taken into account, we rather highlight the situation of those that become or remain poor even when wealth is included. 

We focus both on within country patterns of joint income-wealth poverty as well as cross-country differences. While the elderly are less prone to being wealth poor, for renter households with a young, female, low educated, unemployed or inactive and single head, the risk of being income as well as wealth poor is high. Overall, the majority of households who are counted as both income and wealth poor qualify as such because they have low assets, rather than high debt.  Variation in poverty rates across countries are to some extent accounted for by differences in the socio-demographic compositions but a lot of variation remains unaccounted for.

If you would like to attend this Seminar (via Zoom), please email Helen Harris –

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