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Measuring Poverty: A New Approach
housing costs and finance;
individual retirement accounts;
personal history (fertility, marital status, migration, welfare recipiency, and other topics); and
wealth (property, retirement expectations and pension plan coverage, assets and liabilities).
In addition, each panel includes a topical module with variable content designed to respond to the needs of policy analysis agencies. Topics covered to date have included characteristics of job from which retired, child care, child support, disability status of children, energy use, extended measures of well-being, functional activities, health status and utilization of health care, home health care, household relationships, housing costs and finance, job offers and reservation wage, long-term care, pension plan coverage, retirement plans, support for non-household members, training, work expenses, and work schedule (see Citro and Kalton, 1993: Table 3-13).
In evaluating the usefulness of a survey for measuring poverty, it is important to consider several characteristics: sample size and design; the amount of detail for data on income, taxes, assets, and expenditures; and the quality of the information. Table B-1 summarizes some key characteristics of the CEX, March CPS, PSID, and SIPP; the next section discusses in more detail the quality of the income data. (The last section provides a detailed comparison of the March CPS and SIPP.)
The surveys range in size from 5,000 consumer units (CEX) to 60,000 households (March CPS). The CEX, March CPS, and PSID collect income data for a number of separate cash and in-kind sources for the previous calendar year or the 12 months prior to interview waves, with some differences among the three; the SIPP obtains income data at each 4-month wave, with monthly reporting for most sources. All the surveys, except the March CPS, collect information with which to determine a variety of taxes. The CEX and SIPP obtain detailed information on asset holdings; the PSID ascertains home value and equity; the March CPS does not ask about assets except to obtain income flows. Finally, all the surveys, except the March CPS, obtain regular information on such expenditures as food and shelter; the CEX obtains extensive expenditure information.
Quality of Income Data
A detailed comparison of data quality across the four surveys is beyond the scope of this appendix, but some rough aggregate comparisons for income reporting can be made.