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Measuring Poverty: A New Approach (1995)

Chapter: Income Data in Other Surveys

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Suggested Citation:"Income Data in Other Surveys." National Research Council. 1995. Measuring Poverty: A New Approach. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4759.
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Page 288

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EFFECTS OF THE PROPOSED POVERTY MEASURE 288 "backcasting" exercise should provide results that are helpful to analysts in historically assessing poverty trends under the proposed measure. Finally, for the foreseeable future, the Census Bureau should routinely issue public-use files from both the March CPS and SIPP that include the Bureau's best estimate of disposable income and its components (taxes, in-kind benefits, child care expenses, etc.). Although many researchers will make the transition to using SIPP for analysis purposes, it is likely that others will continue to use the March CPS for some kinds of poverty analysis, particularly analyses related to labor force behavior (which is the focus of the regular CPS). Hence, it is important that researchers have ready access in the March CPS data files to income variables constructed under the new resource definition as well as variables for the new thresholds: to use the new thresholds with income variables that represent the old resource definition would result in inappropriate estimates of poverty. Research Recommendations Income Data in Other Surveys Many federally sponsored surveys in addition to the March CPS and SIPP (e.g., the American Housing Survey, Consumer Expenditure Survey, National Health Interview Survey, National Medical Expenditure Survey) collect income data. Because the focus of these surveys is on some other topic, they cannot typically afford the questionnaire space to collect detailed income information, although they need to obtain some income measures as background variables for analysis purposes. Often, income-to-poverty ratios are desired because such measures adjust for differences in family size and composition. Our recommendation to measure poverty on the basis of families' disposable money and near-money income may present a problem for surveys with limited room for questions not directly germane to their primary focus. We encourage work by agencies to determine the best set of questions to include in surveys that require income and poverty measures as background variables. Given limited questionnaire space, we believe that it is more important to include questions that will permit estimating disposable income (e.g., questions on net pay, child care costs, and food stamp benefits) than it is to include questions to distinguish among a large number of components of gross money income (e.g., types of cash transfers or property income).28 We also encourage research by agencies on adjustments that may be needed for the greater extent of income underreporting that is likely to occur 28 In 1990, the Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics issued a set of guidelines for income questions to include in surveys of the elderly. That effort might serve as a model for work to develop guidelines for survey questions to support measurement of disposable income.

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Measuring Poverty: A New Approach Get This Book
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Each year's poverty figures are anxiously awaited by policymakers, analysts, and the media. Yet questions are increasing about the 30-year-old measure as social and economic conditions change.

In Measuring Poverty a distinguished panel provides policymakers with an up-to-date evaluation of:

  • Concepts and procedures for deriving the poverty threshold, including adjustments for different family circumstances.
  • Definitions of family resources.
  • Procedures for annual updates of poverty measures.

The volume explores specific issues underlying the poverty measure, analyzes the likely effects of any changes on poverty rates, and discusses the impact on eligibility for public benefits. In supporting its recommendations the panel provides insightful recognition of the political and social dimensions of this key economic indicator.

Measuring Poverty will be important to government officials, policy analysts, statisticians, economists, researchers, and others involved in virtually all poverty and social welfare issues.

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