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Material Deprivation in Europe: Which Expenditures are Curtailed First?


This paper takes a close look at material deprivation in 27 European Union countries. Its main goal is to explore which expenditures individuals/households curtail first when facing economic difficulties. Two methodologies are applied: item response theory, a psychometric method also known as latent trait analysis, and the concept of deprivation sequence which is an extension of the notion of “order of acquisition of durable goods”. Both approaches show similar results when applied to EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions material deprivation data. Overall, the order of curtailment found in the data does not differ substantially between EU Member states. Looking at within country variations, our analysis shows that the order of curtailment of the country as a whole is very similar to that of the various population subgroups.

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  1. 1.

    Council of the European Union (2011).

  2. 2.

    See also Guio and Marlier (2013).

  3. 3.

    As explained above (K + 1) × N comparisons will be needed, and these will be repeated !K times for a total number of iterations equal to [(K + 1) × N] × !K. In our sample (K = 13 and N = 520,000) this means 8,064,000 × 6,227,020,800 = 5.02 × 1016 iterations.

  4. 4.

    In IRT this is achieved by maximum likelihood estimation.

  5. 5.

    The deprivation score ranging from 0 to K in the DS method and the latent trait in IRT.

  6. 6.

    Drawing all the 13 curves would have made it too difficult to identify all the different necessities.


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marco Pomati.



See Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4

Fig. 1

Item response curves for four items, with severity ranking. EU-SILC 2009 cross-sectional data, Users’ database—August 2011, Authors’ computation

Fig. 2

The dominant deprivation pattern in the European Union (results based on IRT). EU-SILC 2009 cross-sectional data, Users’ database—August 2011, Authors’ computation

Fig. 3

Proportion of people who can’t afford the item, by level of income (top, from richer to poorer) and level of deprivation (from least deprived to extremely deprived). EU-SILC 2009 cross-sectional data, Users’ database—August 2011, Authors’ computation

Fig. 4

Order of curtailment for each item by country, data provided for a cluster of 16 countries with high correlation. EU-SILC 2009 cross-sectional data, Users’ database—August 2011, Authors’ computation

and Tables 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Table 1 List of deprivation items
Table 2 The eight deprivation profiles when there are three durable goods
Table 3 Order of curtailment, results based on IRT. (Color table online)
Table 4 Order of curtailment, results based on the concept of “deprivation sequence”. (Color table online)
Table 5 Codes of the various countries in the European Union
Table 6 Between countries rank correlation for DS
Table 7 Reproducibility coefficients for the various population subgroups within a country, assuming the DS is that of the country as a whole. (Color table online)

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Deutsch, J., Guio, AC., Pomati, M. et al. Material Deprivation in Europe: Which Expenditures are Curtailed First?. Soc Indic Res 120, 723–740 (2015).

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  • Durable goods
  • European Union
  • Item response theory
  • Material deprivation
  • Order of acquisition