Quality & Quantity 33: 323–338, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The Contribution of Longitudinal Research
to the Study of Women’s Poverty
Università degli Studi di Padova, Dipartimento di Sociologia, via S. Canziano, 8, 35122 Padova,
Italy, phone: n. ++39-049-8274314; fax: n. ++39-049-657508; e-mail: email@example.com;
Abstract. The aim of this article is to discuss some of the central conceptual and methodologi-
cal issues which must be tackled if we wish to investigate poverty in a gender-sensitive way. The
relationship between women and poverty is complex and therefore very difﬁcult to reveal: the dis-
proportionate vulnerability of women arises from the interaction of economic disadvantages in the
labour market, in domestic circumstances and in welfare systems.
The methodological challenge that emerges now is how can we reveal the gender dimension of
poverty? Especially in the case of women, the life course perspective may offer a fruitful starting
point: life course changes are more pronounced for women than for men both in the family and in
the labour market. Thus, longitudinal data are required, since only they can efﬁciently estimate the
parameters of dynamic processes in the social sciences.
Key words: longitudinal research, panel data, women’s poverty, gender issues in poverty measure-
The purpose of this paper is to explore the potential of household panel surveys as a
powerful tool for appreciating the dynamic dimension of poverty and, in particular,
women’s poverty. Two previous, inspiring articles (Millar & Glendinning, 1988;
Daly, 1992) depicted the problems connected with the ‘measurement’ of women’s
poverty and discussed the issue of gender within poverty research. My aim is to
follow in these footsteps and add further methodological reﬂections to the debate.
Researching poverty is extremely difﬁcult since poverty is both a contested and
an ambiguous concept. The deﬁnition of poverty has always been fraught with dif-
ﬁculty and controversy: the concept of poverty also partly depends on the political
values, welfare ideology and paradigms of the researcher who deﬁnes it (Becker,
Poverty has been deﬁned as a relative, multi-dimensional and dynamic phenom-
enon (Deleeck et al., 1992: 2–3). Poverty is also a gendered phenomenon. With this
statement I not only wish to say that more women than men are likely to experience