Income Data for Policy Analysis: A Comparative Assessment of Eight Surveys. Additional Design Elements and Post-Survey Processing


In addition to the fundamental survey design features discussed in the preceding section, there are a number of additional design elements that may affect the data collected on income and poverty. Components of the post-survey processing of survey data may have important effects as well. All of these elements are relevant regardless of the overall survey design. These elements include:

  • Family definition, which determines whose income is aggregated and what poverty threshold is used to determine poverty status
  • Contemporaneous versus fixed family composition and income for poverty measurement—that is, whether family composition and income reflect changes in composition over the reference period or whether family composition is measured at a fixed point in time and income collected for the members of this fixed family
  • Interview month, which affects recall intervals, family composition, the lag between a fixed family composition and the income reference period, response rates, and the quality of income data
  • Choice of imputation methodology, including its impact on the distribution of imputed values and their consistency with reported values
  • Application of consistency checks between related items collected at different places in the questionnaire
  • Application of inflation adjustments when income reference periods differ
  • Post-stratification in general and post-stratification on income in particular

Each of these can affect the quality of the income data that are ultimately released to users and how the income and poverty data compare among surveys.

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