Each SIPP panel of households is derived through a two-stage process: selection of primary sampling units (PSUs), which are counties and independent cities, and selection of address units within PSUs. Sample members are the residents at those addresses. Information also is collected on individuals who join their households through birth or moving in. Original sample members aged 15 and over are followed if they move away. The sampled households are randomly divided into four rotation groups, which are interviewed in successive months. The 1996 panel was designed to run for 4 years, or 12 waves, and had an initial sample size of 40,188 households.
Starting in 1992, a mixed mode survey design has been used to contact and interview households. Generally, household interviews were initially conducted in person during Waves 1 and 2 and by phone during subsequent waves. Computer-assisted interviewing (CATI/CAPI) was introduced with the 1996 panel.