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

12/23/2008

Among persons (or, for the NHIS, families) with income either reported or allocated, the percentage with any portion of their income allocated varies from a low of 21.2 percent for the ACS to a high of 80.5 percent for the SIPP (Table VI.1). The CPS and MEPS fall in the middle of this range, with allocation frequencies of 52 to 54 percent while the NHIS, with its single family income question, has an allocation rate of one-third. The SIPP’s vastly greater number of income questions than any of the other surveys, spread over three to four interviews, undoubtedly contributes to the exceedingly high allocation rate estimated for this survey. A respondent who was able and willing to provide a dollar amount for all but one of these questions is counted among the 80 percent with at least some of their annual total income allocated.

For this reason we find it more useful to look at the proportion of total dollars that was allocated, and here we find that the SIPP was undifferentiated from the CPS and the NHIS, with about one-third of total income being allocated. The ACS had just over half that proportion of total income allocated (17.6 percent) while MEPS had about 10 percentage points more than the CPS, SIPP, and NHIS at 42.7 percent.

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