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Studying poverty with Eurostat’s EU-SILC survey: the case of homeless people and undocumented immigrants
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*Idesbald Nicaise, K.U. Leuven 
Ingrid Schockaert, K.U. Leuven 

Keywords: survey methods, hard-to-reach groups, poverty, homelessness, undocumented immigrants

EU-SILC is a rotating panel, launched in 2004 in all EU member states and co-ordinated by Eurostat. One set of key indicators based on EU-SILC relates to poverty (the so-called Laeken indicators). These indicators are used to monitor progress and to compare the effectiveness of national social inclusion policies in various fields (income, work, education, health care, housing etc.). In its Europe 2020 strategy, the EU has now combined three of these indicators to monitor progress in relation to its ‘headline target’ for social inclusion in the next decade. Whereas the official poverty rates are now widely used in national and EU-level policy documents, it is worth noting that some of the most vulnerable groups are seriously underrepresented or excluded from the panel, or display disproportionate attrition rates. Our research relates to the Belgian EU-SILC data and consists of three parts: (1) An inventory of groups that are a priori excluded from the EU-SILC surveys, either because they are not included in the sampling framework for some practical reason (collective households, illegal residents) or because they do not live at their registered address (such as itinerant groups or homeless people); (2) A quantitative and qualitative analysis of selective non-response and attrition – and ways to minimize them or correct for them; and (3) A complementary survey among two selected groups (homeless people and undocumented immigrants) with adapted questionnaires. A first analysis of the collected data allows for a comparison of the extent and depth of poverty between these two groups and the rest of the population. The paper concludes with suggestions for methodological improvements in the EU-SILC surveys, further analysis of the collected data and recommendations for action, based on the preliminary results.

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