Income Data for Policy Analysis: A Comparative Assessment of Eight Surveys. Aggregate income

12/23/2008

As a summary statistic, the weighted total or aggregate income is appealing for its simplicity and its use of all the income data collected by each survey, but its value is heavily dependent on the amount of income captured from the upper end of the income distribution, which holds the least interest for policy analysis. In presenting estimates of aggregate income, we include a breakdown by quintile, which enables us to compare the surveys with respect to their collection of income from different segments of the distribution. We also examine per capita income, which is calculated by dividing the estimate of aggregate income by population size. This corrects the aggregate estimates for slight differences in the size of the population represented by each survey after the adjustment to a common universe described in Chapter III. The estimates of per capita income are presented by quintile as well.

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