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Measuring Poverty: A New Approach (1995)

Chapter: Content of the Interview Survey

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Suggested Citation:"Content of the Interview Survey." National Research Council. 1995. Measuring Poverty: A New Approach. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4759.
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Page 393
Suggested Citation:"Content of the Interview Survey." National Research Council. 1995. Measuring Poverty: A New Approach. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4759.
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Page 394

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APPENDIX B 393 estimates from 1987 to 1990 were only about 0.70 for food, 0.75 for household furnishings and equipment, 0.60 for apparel and services, and 0.60 for public transportation (see also Bosworth, Burtless, and Sabelhaus, 1991; Gieseman, 1987; Slesnick, 1991a).1 Researchers who analyze expenditure data typically work with the Interview Survey, from which users can construct annual data on expenditures and income. (The Interview and Diary Survey samples are independent, so there is no way to actually link the microrecords.) However, some proportion of consumer units in the sample for the Interview Survey do not have observations for all four quarters because of dropping out of the survey or moving away from the sampled address. (The sample, technically, is one of addresses. Consumer units that move from the sampled address are not followed, but, instead, the new occupants are interviewed.) Also, because of the rotation design, a large proportion of observations with complete information must have their data adjusted in some manner in order to obtain calendar-year estimates. Content of the Interview Survey • Demographic characteristics • Work experience Information is obtained for consumer unit members aged 14 and over on work experience and job characteristics in the previous quarter and in the prior 12 months (the latter information is obtained at the second and fifth interviews). • Detailed expenditures Detailed quarterly data (per each payment or bill) are obtained for expenditure categories that comprise an estimated 60-70 percent of total expenditures, including rent, facilities, and services for rented living quarters (including housing assistance subsidies); payments on mortgages, lump-sum home equity loans, and line of credit home equity loans; ownership costs (extra payments on mortgage principal, ground rent, cooperative or condominium fees); telephone expenses; utilities and fuels; construction, repairs, alterations, and maintenance of property; purchases of appliances, household equipment, and other selected items; household equipment repairs, service contracts, and furniture repair and reupholstering; purchases of home furnishings and related household items; purchases of clothing; purchases of infants' clothing, watches, jewelry, and hairpieces; purchases of sewing materials; payments for leased vehicles; purchases of vehicles; disposals of vehicles; vehicle maintenance and repair; vehicle equipment, parts, and accessories; licensing, registration, and inspection of vehicles; other vehicle operating expenses; premiums for other than health insurance; premiums for health insurance; coverage by Medicare and Medicaid; medical and health expenditures 1 However, the NIPA and CEX data are not strictly comparable.

APPENDIX B 394 and reimbursements; educational expenses paid by the consumer unit and by others (including for nursery school and day care centers); trips by type of expense for each trip completed during the quarter; reimbursements for trip expenses; local overnight stays; and gifts of commodities for people outside the family. • Global (or usual) expenditures Global (or usual) expenditures are obtained for categories that comprise an additional estimated 20-25 percent of total expenditures, including quarterly amounts for subscriptions, memberships, books, and entertainment expenses; quarterly amounts for miscellaneous items (e.g., funerals, catered affairs, accounting fees, home services, including baby-sitting and in-home child care, pets and pet expenses, alimony, child support, charitable contributions); usual weekly expenses for supermarkets and specialty food stores; usual monthly expenses for liquor and food away from home; quarterly benefits from food stamps (and months received) and other meals provided free; quarterly amounts for selected services and goods (e.g., laundromats); usual weekly expenses for tobacco products; and usual monthly expenses for haircuts for men and women members of the consumer unit. • Expenditures in last 12 months Data on expenditures in the prior 12 months are obtained at the fifth interview for occupational expenses (e.g., union dues) and contributions, including alimony, child support, college expenses for students attending school away from home, gifts to people outside the consumer unit, contributions to charities, contributions to religious organizations, contributions to educational organizations, political contributions, and other contributions. • Real assets An inventory of major household appliances and features of the dwelling unit, together with descriptions of each owned property, are obtained at the first interview, and changes in ownership of property and mortgages are obtained each quarter. The rental value of owned home and the value of owned home are obtained. • Financial assets Data obtained include current credit balances (e.g., credit cards, credit unions, bank loans); credit balances a year ago; finance charges paid in the prior 12 months (e.g., on revolving credit cards, late payments to doctors); changes in financial assets, comparing value last month and 1 year ago (e.g., savings accounts, checking accounts, savings bonds, securities); purchases and sales of stocks, bonds, or mutual funds in the prior 12 months; investments to or withdrawals from own business or farm in the prior 12 months; amounts owed currently and 1 year ago by others to someone in the consumer unit; and settlements during past year on insurance policies. All of these items are obtained at the fifth interview; current credit balances are also obtained at the second interview. • Income in the prior 12 months Data on income for the prior 12 months are obtained at the second and fifth interviews. Sources obtained for each consumer unit member aged 14 and over include wages or salary, nonfarm

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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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