The ACS data undergo extensive computer editing to correct reporting deficiencies and improve consistency of the income reports. For example, “if people reported they were self employed on their own farm, not incorporated, but had reported only wage and salary earnings, the latter amount was shifted to self-employment income.”25 The ACS data are limited in that income is often underreported. In addition, the earnings data generated are not directly comparable with those from the SSA records, since SSA data are based on employer reports and income tax returns for the self-employed. Furthermore, SSA excludes some civilian government and nonprofit organization employees, workers covered by the Railroad Retirement Act, and people whose earnings are insufficient for the Social Security program.
A.6 DATA COVERAGE OF SPECIAL SECTORS:AGRICULTURE, NONPROFITS, AND E-COMMERCE
While this report does not deal with or make recommendations specifically about issues that are unique to the agricultural sector, we point out here that there are numerous data sources covering the sector. In fact, relative to its quantitative role in the economy, more is spent in the production of statistics on agricultural output (and other variables) than on other areas of the economy, including those that are growing rapidly.
The Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Agricultural Statistical Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are joint sponsors of the annual ARMS, the primary source of information on “the financial condition (including debt levels), production practices, resource use, and economic well-being of America’s farm households.” The ARMS provides data on the business side of farms (i.e., field-level farm practices and economics of the business) as well as household characteristics, such as age, education, farm and off-farm work and income, and family living expenses, making ARMS the most broad-based source of national agricultural business data.