. "9 Measuring Employment and Income for Low-Income Populations with Administrative and Survey Data." Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2001.
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Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues
TABLE 9–2 AFDC/TANF and Food Stamp Aggregate Benefits Paid Based on Administrative Data Compared to Estimates from Current Population Survey (CPS) (in billions of dollars)
Food Stamp Benefits
SOURCE: Primus et al. (1999:65), which in turn gives the sources, as Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture administrative records and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tabulations of CPS data.
TANF (or family assistance) benefits also is consistent with Roemer’s (2000: Table 3b) calculations from the CPS for 1990 through 1996. Interestingly, the apparent decline in AFDC/TANF coverage does not show up in the SIPP, though the SIPP appears to capture only about three-quarters of aggregate benefits.
Polivka (1998) compares the monthly average number of AFDC recipients in the March CPS to the monthly average reported to the Department of Health and Human Services (prior to quality control). She finds there has been a modest decrease in the proportion of total months on AFDC as measured in the CPS. The ratio of the CPS estimated to the administrative count (excluding Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico) is 83.0 (1989), 86.7 (1990), 86.0 (1991), 82.5 (1992), 84.2 (1993), 78.5 (1994), 75.5 (1995), and 79.6 (1996). The timing of the drop in the ratio corresponds to changes in the March CPS survey instrument. Taken together, the Primus et al. (1999) and Polivka (1998) results suggest that the decline in benefits reported in the CPS results from both a reduction in the coverage of families receiving AFDC and from an underrepresentation of benefits conditional on receipt, though the second factor seems quantitatively more important than the first.
The third potential weakness of national surveys is that there is little or no “cost” to respondents of misreporting of income, employment, or other circumstances.10
Shroder and Martin (1996), for example, show subsidized housing (broadly defined) is badly reported on surveys, including the American Housing Survey (and presumably the SIPP). An underlying problem is that the phrase “public housing” means different things to different people, ranging from only projects to any kind of subsidized housing.