Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 434–450

Explaining the Poverty Dynamics of Rural Families Using an Economic Well-Being Continuum

  • Sheila Mammen
  • Elizabeth Dolan
  • Sharon B. Seiling
Original Paper


The economic volatility faced by rural low-income families is explained with an Economic Well-Being Continuum (EWC), a comprehensive measure which describes the circumstances of low-income families in eight specific dimensions and establishes their level of economic functioning. Using the Rural Families Speak longitudinal dataset and a case study approach, we analyzed the poverty spells of five rural, low-income families, including a migrant family. Life circumstances and trigger events that contribute to families’ entry into and exit from poverty were examined with the EWC. Health issues and relationship changes were significant trigger events that established or altered the economic functioning of the families while support networks helped mitigate their hardships. Policies to alleviate poverty spells among the rural poor are discussed.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheila Mammen
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Dolan
    • 2
  • Sharon B. Seiling
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Resource EconomicsUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family StudiesUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of Consumer SciencesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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