Disability, Poverty and Living Standards: Reviewing Evidence and Policies

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Despite its policy significance, the impact of disability has not featured prominently in the Australian empirical literature on household incomes and living standards. Among the many reasons for this deficiency is a lack of information on disability status in many of the data collections used to examine aspects of living standards, a lack of research on how to capture the impact of disability when adjusting for variations in need, and the problems of allowing for the variability in disability that exists among the population. Another major factor has been the attention devoted to the quality and coverage of services rather than the adequacy of income for people with disabilities. A consequence of these limitations has been that the role and impact of disability has been largely ignored in the Australian living standards literature. After providing a brief review of the Australian literature in the field, this paper then examines how disability is associated with the standard of living and its determinants (including labour force participation and the receipt of state transfers) using a range of available data. Attention focuses on how the different levels of restrictions associated with disability (to the extent possible given existing survey data) are associated with such variables as family income, income poverty, expressed poverty, financial stress/deprivation, and a range of indicators of social exclusion. The paper concludes with some broad reflections on the implications of the results and other recent trends for reform of the Australian disability support pension.
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Saunders, Peter
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