Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Cross-country comparisons of pensioners’ incomes

Disney, Richard and Whitehouse, Edward (2001): Cross-country comparisons of pensioners’ incomes. Published in: Department of Work and Pensions, Research Report series No. 142 (2001)

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This report surveys a dozen international comparative studies of poverty, income distribution and the elderly in OECD countries. It updates a previous Department of Social Security report — Whiteford and Kennedy, 1995, based on data from the mid- to late-1980s — including information up to the mid-1990s.

The report addresses a series of questions. What level are the incomes of the elderly relative to the population as a whole? How has this changed over the past two decades? How many of the old are poor? How many of the poor are old? Are the oldest of the old poorer than younger pensioners are? How do widows fare? What is the mix between public and private sources of income? Do the elderly poor remain poor? There is also a discussion of methodological issues.

The results show that the incomes of the elderly are typically around 80 per cent of incomes of the populations as a whole. In most countries, this ratio has been increasing over the past two decades. Although there remain pockets of poverty among the elderly, most studies show that the old are represented proportionally or under-represented among the poor. The papers present conflicting pictures of the position of the United Kingdom. There is, however, no consistent evidence that pensioners in the United Kingdom are better or worse off than their counterparts overseas.

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