Financial Inclusion Working Paper

Who Are the Asset Poor? Levels, Trends, and Composition, 1983-1998

In Section I and II of the paper, we briefly describe the current measure of official income poverty that serves as the basis for assessing the status of the nation’s least well-off citizens, and show the levels of official poverty for the years for which asset poverty measures are available. We also present the trend in median family income for these years. Section III presents the alternative asset poverty measures that we use in the paper and describes the data sources that we use in our analysis. These alternative measures employ alternative concepts of wealth, but use the same poverty cutoff thresholds; we also measure asset poverty by employing an absolute dollar cutoff, irrespective of family size. Section IV presents our estimates of asset poverty for the entire population that flow from our definitions. In Section V, we present more details on asset poverty in 1998 period for the entire population, as well as subgroups of the population distinguished by race, age of the household head, education of the household head, tenure status, and family type. Section VI investigates trends in asset poverty over the entire 1983 to 1998 period for the entire population, as well as the various subgroups. Section VII shows the decomposition of these trends for subperiods of this entire period; namely for the period from 1983 (a recession year) to the recovery year of 1989, and from 1989 to a later peak year, 1998. Finally, in section VIII, we summarize our results and offer a few conclusions.

Project: Inclusion in Asset Building: Research and Policy Symposium


Haveman, R., & Wolff, E. (2000). Who are the asset poor? Levels, trends, and composition, 1983–1998 (CSD Working Paper No. 00-12). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.