Income Data for Policy Analysis: A Comparative Assessment of Eight Surveys. Poverty and Near Poverty in the General Population

12/23/2008

SIPP obtains the lowest poverty rate among the five surveys at 11.8 percent, based on an estimate of 33.2 million poor persons (Table IV.7). The CPS, ACS, and MEPS cluster very close to each other and not far from SIPP with poverty rates between 12.2 percent and 12.5 percent. As we have noted, the MEPS sample weights that we are using are post-stratified to the CPS poverty distribution, so the poverty rates for the two surveys should be identical if not for the differential effect of our universe adjustments.28 At the high end, the NHIS is an outlier with an estimate of 41.6 million poor and a poverty rate of 14.7 percent.29 The NHIS poverty rate is more than two percentage points higher than any of the other four surveys and nearly three percentage points higher than the SIPP.

Despite having the lowest poverty rate, SIPP exceeds all four of the other surveys in its estimate of the near poor. SIPP finds 20.0 percent of the population to be near poor. This is nearly two percentage points above the CPS and MEPS, more than two percentage points above the ACS, and one percentage point above NHIS. SIPP’s estimate of 56.2 million near poor exceeds the ACS by 7.0 million and surpasses NHIS by 2.3 million.

Combining the estimates of the poor and near poor, which define the low-income population, SIPP is higher than all but NHIS with respect to both the estimated number and percentage of persons who are low-income. For the SIPP, 31.8 percent or 89.5 million persons are low-income compared to 30.5 percent or 86.2 million persons for the CPS. MEPS is somewhat higher than the CPS on both dimensions while the ACS is lower. NHIS finds 33.7 percent of the population or 95.5 million persons to be low-income. The number of persons estimated to be low-income in the NHIS exceeds the SIPP by 6.0 million and the CPS by 9.3 million.

TABLE IV.7

ESTIMATES OF THE POOR AND NEAR POOR: FIVE SURVEYS
Estimate CPS ACS SIPP MEPS NHIS
Millions of Persons
All Persons 282.55 277.69 281.08 283.30 283.71
Poverty Status
Poor 34.38 34.61 33.25 35.35 41.58
Near Poor 51.81 49.28 56.25 52.14 53.91
Total Low Income 86.19 83.89 89.50 87.48 95.49

 

ESTIMATES OF THE POOR AND NEAR POOR: FIVE SURVEYS (continued)
Estimate CPS ACS SIPP MEPS NHIS
Percent of the Population
All Persons 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Poverty Status
Poor 12.2 12.5 11.8 12.5 14.7
Near Poor 18.3 17.7 20.0 18.4 19.0
Total Low Income 30.5 30.2 31.8 30.9 33.7

Source:   Mathematica Policy Research, from tabulations of poverty status in calendar year 2002 from the 2003 CPS ASEC supplement, the 2001 SIPP panel, the 2002 Full-year Consolidated MEPS-HC, and the 2003 NHIS, and poverty status 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. 

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