Income Data for Policy Analysis: A Comparative Assessment of Eight Surveys. Internal Consistency

12/23/2008

Consistency between total income and its sources or between reported employment and reported income from employment is an important indicator of data quality. Internal consistency can be achieved through the design of the survey instrument or through the application of consistency checks in the editing procedures that are invoked in processing the raw survey data.

TABLE IV.44

ESTIMATES OF THE POOR AND NEAR POOR: HRS AND CENSUS BUREAU SURVEYS
Estimate CPS ACS SIPP HRS
Millions of Persons
All Persons 76.15 74.44 75.38 80.18
(Poverty Status)Poor 7.19 6.56 6.15 6.73
(Poverty Status)Near Poor 14.68 12.89 14.02 12.60
Total Low Income 21.87 19.45 20.18 19.33
Percent of the Population
All Persons 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
(Poverty Status)Poor 9.4 8.8 8.2 8.4
(Poverty Status)Near Poor 19.3 17.3 18.6 15.7
Total Low Income 28.7 26.1 26.8 24.1

Source: Mathematica Policy Research, from tabulations of poverty status in calendar year 2002 from the 2003 CPS ASEC supplement and the 2001 SIPP panel, in calendar year 2003 from the 2004 HRS, and in the prior 12 months, inflation-adjusted to calendar year 2002, from the 2002 ACS. Note: The poor have a family income below the poverty threshold.  The near poor have a family income at or above the poverty threshold but below twice the poverty threshold.

Earlier (section C.2) we documented discrepant reports of the source of earnings in MEPS income data and the separate JOBS file, noting that these data are collected in separate parts of the instrument, with much of the JOBS data coming from different interviews than the annual income data, and that AHRQ has opted to preserve discrepant reports rather than impose consistency edits that would eliminate the independent information contained in the separate responses. We noted that the JOBS file provided information that could be used, potentially, to reclassify reported wages and salaries that, most likely, should have been reported as business income. Here we examine internal consistency between reported family income and reported earnings in the NHIS and between reported earnings and (1) reported receipt of earnings in NHIS or (2) reported work activity in MEPS and SIPP.

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