Gender a ‘prime factor’ in poverty in Europe

Gender is a prime factor in explaining why some people are at risk of poverty rather than others, according to new European study. The authors adopt a gender perspective on poverty – in terms of both income poverty and poverty as a multi-dimensional phenomenon.

Key points

  • A serious problem with statistical indexes of income is that resources are generally assumed to be equally shared between members of the same household.
  • The authors instead compute poverty indexes based on the incomes definitely attributable to individuals in a household (such as income from paid work), and assume only that the rest are equally shared.
  • This enables them to calculate how many women have an individual income below 60 per cent of the median – while recognising that this denotes a risk of monetary poverty rather than actual poverty, given that resources may in fact be redistributed more equally within the household.
  • Based on the resulting 'dependency rate', more than half of all married or cohabiting women are found to be at risk of poverty in a number of countries, including Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Austria. In the UK, the figure approaches 40 per cent.
  • A 'holistic' approach – going beyond a consideration of income alone – is needed to assess the relative standard of living of men and women. But a range of methodological problems makes this impossible at present. Official surveys do not gather information on intra-household sharing of common assets and resources; and there is no agreed method for determining how equally individual members enjoy households' goods and services.

Source: Fabrizio Botti, Marcella Corsi and Carlo D'Ippoliti, The Gendered Nature of Multidimensional Poverty in the European Union, Working Paper 12/026, Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, Centre Emile Bernheim (Brussels)
Link: Paper