If Seebohm Rowntree had Studied Sweden – How Poverty Changed in the City of Göteborg from 1925 to 2003

Bjorn Gustafsson 1, Birgitta Jansson1
1University of Gotehnburg, Sweden, 2Institute for teh Study of Labor (IZA), Germany

This paper investigates the development of poverty in Sweden using micro data derived from tax files for the city of Göteborg for the years 1925, 1936, 1947, 1958 as well as more recent (1983, 1994 and 2003) information. We define poverty as living in a household with a disposable income lower than a poverty line that represents a constant purchasing power all years, as well as poverty lines defined as 60 percent of contemporary median income. Clear reductions of poverty from 1925 to 1947 as well as from 1958 to 1983 are found. We argue that an important poverty reducing mechanism during both periods was narrowing earnings disparities. Further we claim that the poverty reduction from the end of the 1950s to the first half of the 1980s was the outcome of improved transfer systems as well as the establishment of pronounced characteristics of present-day Sweden: the dual earner system.

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