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Using Housing Items to Indicate Socioeconomic Status: Latin America

Elizabeth Arias and Susan De Vos
Social Indicators Research
Vol. 38, No. 1 (May, 1996), pp. 53-80
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27522916
Page Count: 28
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Using Housing Items to Indicate Socioeconomic Status: Latin America
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Abstract

This note explores the possibility of using physical housing quality information from censuses to help indicate socioeconomic status, particularly that of children, elderly people and women in developing areas such as Latin America. We develop a comparative scale from six housing items (wall material, floor material, roof material, availability of electricity, type of sewerage and water facilities) since these items are recommended by the U.N., tend to be present in most housing censuses, tend to be highly related to each other and tend to have a similar valuation. A more basic three-item scale, consisting of the last three items listed above, is also discussed because this scale might be even more widely available while providing valuable, aggregated, information. The six-item and three-item scales correlate highly with each other. There is a wide range among Latin American countries in people's distribution along the scales but the scales themselves seem applicable everywhere. Not only have they been proving useful in our own research, but both scales correlate fairly well with a country's infant mortality rate on the aggregate level and with an individual's educational attainment among men and women 15 to 59 and among elderly people 60 years of age and older.

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