refresh the sample for cross-sectional estimates more frequently than every 2 years. Research on attrition and the most appropriate corrective actions is obviously needed, whichever design is used, and the Census Bureau has stated its commitment to such research for SIPP. However, it is still the case that attrition bias or other problems with a panel that may affect the poverty estimates cannot be fully assessed with a nonoverlapping design.

Indeed, a nonoverlapping design also limits the possibility of using SIPP for longitudinal analysis of important policy changes, such as changes in the welfare or health care systems. Ideally for such analysis, one wants information for a sufficient length of time before a change in order to accurately characterize people's behavior under the old policy regime. One then wants information for as long as possible after the policy change to assess the effects on behavior. However, if policy changes take effect near the beginning or end of a 4-year panel under the Census Bureau's design, information either before or after the change will be limited, reducing the ability to adequately evaluate the effects. In contrast, under the design of the CNSTAT Panel to Evaluate SIPP, there will likely always be a panel in the field that is suitable for analysis of before-and-after effects, albeit with a smaller sample size.

In addition to considering the best survey design for purposes of poverty measurement, the SIPP questionnaire should be reviewed to determine what changes may be required. Thus, some questions may need to be added at least occasionally (e.g., work expenses) or asked more frequently (e.g., child care expenses or child support payments), while others may need to be modified. In some cases, such as the estimation of tax liabilities, it may make sense to collect a limited set of variables that will enhance the Census Bureau's simulation model rather than to try to collect detailed information directly. 26

Finally, from the perspective of improved poverty measurement, we urge that high priority be given to several areas of methodological research for SIPP. First, questionnaire research should be pursued to develop ways to improve the quality of reporting of wage and salary income in SIPP, which falls short of independent estimates (very likely because many people report net rather than gross pay). Second, research should be conducted to improve the weighting process so that the weights adequately account for the higher rates of attrition evidenced by low-income population groups (see Appendix B on both these points).

Third, and very important, research should be conducted to improve population coverage in SIPP. A problem that affects all household surveys, including SIPP and the March CPS, is that not all people who are associated with sample households are in fact listed as household residents. Particularly subject to undercoverage are low-income minority groups. For example, it is

26  

See Citro and Kalton (1993:Chap. 3) for suggestions of content changes to SIPP that generally comport with the proposed resource definition for the poverty measure.



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