Is the age gradient in self-reported material hardship explained by resources, needs, behaviors, or reporting bias?
Older people report much less hardship than younger people in a range of contexts, despite lower incomes. Hardship indicators are increasingly influential, so the source of this age gradient has considerable policy implications. We propose a theoretical and empirical strategy to decompose the sources of this relationship. We exploit a unique feature of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Australia (HILDA) survey, which collects reports of hardship from all adult household members. This facilitates within-couple estimates, allowing us to identify age-related reporting bias. The majority of the raw age-hardship gradient is explained by observed resources, particularly wealth and home ownership. One third of the relationship is explained by unobserved differences between households, which we interpret as age-related behavioral choices. Reporting error does not appear to contribute to the age gradient. 2011 The Authors. Review of Income and Wealth 2011 International Association for Research in Income and Wealth.