, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 155–174

Measuring living standards with proxy variables


    • Policy Research Division, Population CouncilState University of New York at Stony Brook
    • Department of EconomicsState University of New York at Stony Brook
  • Michele Gragnolati
    • Human Development DepartmentLatin America and the Caribbean Region, World Bank
  • Kathleen A. Burke
    • Economics DepartmentState University of New York at Cortland
  • Edmundo Paredes
    • Department of EconomicsPontificia Universidad Católica del Peru
Measurement and Error

DOI: 10.2307/2648118

Cite this article as:
Montgomery, M.R., Gragnolati, M., Burke, K.A. et al. Demography (2000) 37: 155. doi:10.2307/2648118


Very few demographic surveys in developing countries have gathered information on household incomes or consumption expenditures. Researchers interested in living standards therefore have had little alternative but to rely on simple proxy indicators. The properties of these proxies have not been analyzed systematically. We ask what hypotheses can be tested using proxies, and compare these indicators with consumption expenditures per adult, our preferred measure of living standards. We find that the proxies employed in much demographic research are very weak predictors of consumption per adult. Nevertheless, hypothesis tests based on proxies are likely to be powerful enough to warrant consideration.

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© Population Association of America 2000