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

12/23/2008

The principal goal of our empirical methodology was to produce survey estimates of income that reflected, to the extent feasible, comparably defined universes, income, and families across the surveys.  Comparability was based on CPS definitions of these concepts, as the CPS is the official source of statistics on family income and poverty for the United States. With survey-specific adjustments designed to achieve this, we created a standard set of income tabulations for four of the five general population surveys—CPS, ACS, SIPP, and MEPS. More limited tables were produced for NHIS and PSID because neither survey collects total personal income for all adults. A smaller set of tables was created for HRS and MCBS because of their restricted universes and specific limitations of their data. We prepared additional tabulations to examine specific survey design issues. These tabulations were based on individual surveys so that we could simulate different design features while holding constant all other aspects of the survey estimates across the simulations. This chapter documents the methodology for creating comparably defined universes, income, and families across the surveys and reviews the specification of the full range of tables on which the analyses reported in Chapters IV through VI are based.6

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