EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF HOUSEHOLD SURVEY – 2014
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nurse times;”>The Bahamas is a high income economy, with a population of about 352,000 inhabitants and an estimated GDP per capita of $ 21,777 in 2010. Social indicators are good and, as a result, the country ranked 43 out of 169 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index (2010). However, the last time that a comprehensive analysis of the socioeconomic conditions of the country was performed was in 2001.
In 2013, The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank, decided to carry out the Household Expenditure Survey (HES-2013)
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. Conducted by the Department of Statistics, the HES-2013 collects information on the level and patterns of household expenditure for a comprehensive range of goods and services, as it relates to the demographic characteristics of households throughout the country. The survey also inquires on access to health facilities and social programmes and general characteristics of the population.
The frame for the survey design was based on data from the 2010 Census, which included information on the number of households in the country at enumeration district level, conditions of the dwelling units, and basic population characteristics (e.g., age, sex, education, and economic activity). The HES 2013 covered 2,123 households, randomly selected throughout the country. The survey included all residents who lived at the selected households for six months or more. Excluded from the sample were persons in group homes and institutions such as hotels, boarding houses, hospices and senior residential care facilities.
The data gathered was used in this report to provide an expansive profile of the conditions under which the population of The Bahamas lives. The main results on demography, poverty and inequality, labour market, health, social programmes, and housing conditions are presented in the next few pages. This analysis of living conditions is very useful as an input in the design and implementation of social programmes and other policy interventions.
- Main Findings
- A distinctive characteristic of The Bahamas is the uneven distribution of the population among the different islands. An ample majority of the population resides in the island of New Providence (72.6%), which accounts for only 1.5% of the total land mass of the country. The second most populated island is Grand Bahama with a 14.4% of the population, while the remaining islands jointly represents 13.0% of the total population of The Bahamas.
- During the period 2001-2013 New Providence has increased its population share (from 69.0% to 72.6%) at the expense of the other islands. In particular, the differences in the age composition of the population of the different islands seem to show that there exists a migratory flow of working age individuals from the Family Islands to New Providence. As a result of this process, the composition of the population of the Family Islands differs significantly from the composition of the population of New Providence and Grand Bahama, with a lower share of population younger than 40 years and a higher share of population aged 60 years and more.
- A partial explanation of the disparities in the distribution of the population between regions is the existence of disparities in economics opportunities and living standards between regions. The composition of the population by expenditure levels, in terms of the share of the different regions, shows that New Providence population is over-represented in the richest 40% of the population: while this island represents 72.6% of the population of the country, its share in the richest 40% climbs to 77.8% while its share in the poorest 40% falls to 70.2%. The opposite result is verified for the Family Islands: while this group of islands represents a 13.0% of the total population of The Bahamas, its share in the poorest 40% of the population is 16.2% and its share in the richest 40% of the population is 9.1%.
- There are also differences in standards of living among residents from different nationalities. In particular, living conditions are significantly worse for Haitian migrants, who represent 7.5% of the total population, than for people of any other nationality. The proportion of migrants in the total population of the country is 12.3%. While most (around 78.3%) of the migrants from Canada, United Kingdom and the United States belongs to the richest 40% of the population, migrants from Haiti are over-represented among the poorest population: almost half of them (49.7%) are part of the poorest 20%, while around three out of four Haitians belong to the poorest 40% of the population of the country.
- Poverty and Inequality
- The proportion of people living in poverty conditions in The Bahamas can be obtained comparing household per capita consumption expenditure with the poverty line. In that framework, household per capita consumption expenditure is a proxy variable of the level of wellbeing of a household, and includes expenditures in both, food and non-food categories. The poverty line represents the minimum amount of money required to afford a low-cost diet (based on a minimum requirement of 2,400 kilocalories a day) plus some essential non-food needs (clothing and footwear, housing, education, health, transportation, etc.). Its value is $11.64 a day per person, which is approximately $4,247 per year per person.
- The national poverty rate for The Bahamas in 2013 is 12.5%, which is higher than the national poverty rate in 2001, which was 9.3%. A possible explanation of this increase in the incidence of poverty in the country is the global financial crisis started in 2008. As a consequence of the crisis, per capita GDP declined in The Bahamas, while there was an important increase in the unemployment rate, from 8.7% in 2008 to 15.4% in 2013.
- The disparities in living standards among regions are also expressed in differences in the incidence of poverty by region. Grand Bahama is the island with the lowest incidence of poverty, with only 9.4% of its population with household per capita consumption expenditure lower than the poverty line. In New Providence the proportion of people living in poverty conditions is 12.4%, while the incidence of poverty in the Family Islands climbs to 17.2%. However, due to the high concentration of the total population in the island of New Providence, the majority of the poor (71.5%) resides in the island of New Providence.
- Both, age and nationality are highly correlated with poverty. Poverty seems to be negative correlated with age: the age group with the highest incidence of poverty is people younger than 20 years (18.8%), while the group of people aged 60 or more is the one with the lowest incidence of poverty (7.2%). As it was already mentioned, migrants from Haiti are the group living in worse economic conditions: 37.7% of them are in poverty. The incidence of poverty among Bahamians is slightly lower than the national rate, 11.1%. The proportion of migrants from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States living in poverty (4.9%) is significantly lower than the national rate.
- The level of education of the household head and the size and the composition of the household are variables strongly related to poverty. The incidence of poverty is almost 25% for the households where the head has no formal education and 12.3% for households with a head with primary education. On the contrary, the incidence of poverty among households where the head has at least some college education is lower than 1%. Similarly, the probability of living in poverty conditions increases with the size (i.e. number of members) and the presence of at least a child in the household: almost 51% of the poor households have at least 5 members and 74% of the poor households have at least a child.
- Inequality in The Bahamas is relatively low in the context of Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC). Its evolution between 2001 and 2013 helped to avoid a higher increase in poverty. The most cited inequality indicator, the Gini coefficient, shows that inequality went down between 2001 and 2013, from 43.5 to 41.4. This value is relatively low in the context of LAC region and implies that The Bahamas is a country with a middle level of inequality in a more global context. If inequality would have increased together with the decrease of the per capita GDP, the increase in the poverty rates between 2001 and 2013 would have been even higher than it has been.
- Labour Market
- Labour force participation rates differ markedly by region, gender, educational level, and age and expenditure level. The proportion of individuals older than 15 years that participate in the labour market is higher in New Providence and Grand Bahama than in the Family Islands. This result is explained by the differences in the age composition of the population between those islands. While the share of women that participate in the labor market is relatively high in the LAC context, there still exists a gap in the participation rates of men (79.0%) and women (69.5%). The probability of participation in the labour market increases with the educational and the expenditure level. Also, participation rates are higher for those aged 25-44 (92.1%) and 45-59 (83.1%) than for those younger than 25 years (55.5%) and older than 59 years (24.1%).
- Unemployment rates are similar among men and women, decrease significantly with age and expenditure level, and are higher in Grand Bahama than in New Providence and in the Family Islands. Regarding gender, the differences in labour force participation rates are offset by the differences in employment rates, so unemployment rates are almost identical between men and women. The probability of unemployment for an individual younger than 25 years is almost two times higher than for an average individual, while the individuals with the lowest probability of unemployment are those older than 59 years. There is a clear negative relation between unemployment rates and expenditure level: unemployment rate for individuals from the poorest quintile is almost five times higher (30.6%) than unemployment rate for individuals in the richest quintile (6.3%). Finally, the rate of unemployment in Grand Bahama is almost 20%, while in New Providence and the Family Islands is lower than 14%.
- Results on both outpatient visits in the previous 4 weeks and inpatient visits in the previous year show that there are differences in access and utilization of health services by gender, age and expenditure level. As expected, women visit medical facilities more frequently (and spent more money on medical visits) than men. The probability of visiting a medical facility increases with age as well as the amount of money spent in medical visits. As expenditure level increases the probability of visiting a medical facility increases. Additionally, the proportion of visits to public facilities decreases when expenditure level increase, while at the same time visits to private facilities (local or abroad) increase, indicating that private providers are the preferred choice for those households who can afford medical expenditures.
- The access to private medical insurance is very unequally distributed. While 60.3% of the individuals of the richest quintile have private medical insurance, only 5.6% of the individuals of the poorest quintile have that kind of insurance.
- The main differences between regions regarding health utilization are observed in the composition of the health expenditures. New Providence population has the highest level of expenditure on prescription drugs, while people in Grand Bahama are the ones with the highest level of expenditure in outpatient visits. Finally, individuals in the Family Islands spend more in transportation to medical facilities than people of the other two islands.
- Social Programmes
- The coverage of the different social security and community programmes applied in The Bahamas varies significantly. The programme with the highest coverage, the National Insurance Retirement Benefit, is a social security programme delivering benefits to 16.7% of the households. The second largest programme, Food Assistance, is a community programme helping to 10.1% of the households. Other programmes currently applied are Med Card (6.7%), National Insurance Old Age non-Contributory Pension (3.9%), National Insurance Survivors (3.8%), Unemployment Benefit (1.8%) and National School Lunch Programme (1.3%).
- Given that each programme targets to different population groups, there are important disparities in the distributional impact of the different programmes. While only 33.4% of the beneficiaries of the National Insurance Retirement Benefit belongs to the poorest 40%, the proportion of beneficiaries of the National Insurance Old Age that are part of the poorest 40% of the population is 48.4% (a similar result is verified for Med Card, 46.4%). The National School Lunch Programme is the one with the highest concentration of beneficiaries (77.4%) among the poorest 40%, however its distributional impact is limited by its low coverage. The highest distributional impact is probably reached by Food Assistance programme, which combines a relatively high coverage with a relatively high proportion of beneficiaries (67.3%) belonging to the poorest 40% of the population.
- Housing Conditions
- There is a high correlation between the level of household per capita consumption expenditure and housing conditions. As household expenditure increases, the size of the dwelling (rooms and bedrooms), the quality of the construction materials (roof, floor and outer walls), the probability of being owner of the dwelling and the probability of access to infrastructure services (public water piped into the house, electricity connection for lighting, toilet linked to the public sewage system) also increase. Additionally, richest households tend to live in newer dwellings.
- There are important differences in housing conditions among islands, although it is not clear that housing conditions are always better in a certain island. In Grand Bahama and the Family Islands a higher proportion of households live in separated detached houses than in New Providence, while the opposite is true regarding single attached houses and apartments. Dwellings tend to be larger in Grand Bahama than in the other islands. Other interesting result is the one showing that quality of construction materials seem to be higher for dwellings in Grand Bahama and New Providence than in the Family Islands.
- Policy Implications
The report of the Household Expenditure Survey 2013 provides a comprehensive analysis of the living standards of the population of The Bahamas. The main contribution of the report is the identification of situations in which there are significant disparities in the levels of wellbeing of different population groups. The existence of such disparities implies that policy interventions in different areas should be focused in and tailored for certain population groups who are in need.
In particular, the analysis of the incidence of poverty in The Bahamas has shown that most of the poor population is concentrated in the island of New Providence. Although the highest incidence of poverty is observed in the Family Islands, only 13.0% of the total population resides there and in those islands the population tends to live in more dispersed locations. Given those facts, most of the actions aimed to reduce poverty should be designed for being applied in New Providence.
Other characteristics strongly linked to poverty that should be taken into account at the time of designing poverty interventions are the following: the number of members of the household, the presence of children and the nationality and level of education of the household head.
While per capita expenditure shows one of the dimensions of poverty, the report have also shown that poverty is a multidimensional problem which is expressed also in housing deficiencies, lack of access to infrastructure services, lack of employment and/or low quality jobs, low access and utilization of health services, low educational achievements, unhealthy drinking and eating habits, etc. In that sense, fighting poverty requires a multidisciplinary approach and the coordination of policy interventions of different public offices.