Working Paper BETA #2021-29

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Title : Counting the Missing Poor in Pre-Industrial Societies

Author(s) : Mathieu Lefebvre, Pierre Pestieau, Gregory Ponthierez

Abstract : Under income-differentiated mortality, poverty measures suffer from a selection bias: they do not count the missing poor (i.e. persons who would have been counted as poor provided they did not die prematurely). The Pre-Industrial period being characterized by an evolutionary advantage (i.e. a higher number of surviving children per household) of the non-poor over the poor, one may expect that the missing poor bias is substantial during that period. This paper aims at estimating the missing poor bias in Pre-Industrial societies, by computing the hypothetical headcount poverty rates that would have prevailed provided the non-poor did not benefit from an evolutionary advantage over the poor. Using data on Pre-Industrial England, we show that the sign and size of the missing poor bias is sensitive to the degree of downward mobility for the non-poor.

Key-words : poverty, measurement, selection e¤ects, missing poor.

JEL Classification : I32.