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How Reliable are Income Data Collected with a Single Question?

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Author Info

  • John Micklewright

    ()
    (Depatment of Quantitative Social Science - Institute of Education, University of London.)

  • Sylke V. Schnepf

    ()
    (School of Social Sciences and Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute, University of Southampton)

Abstract

Income is an important correlate for numerous phenomena in the social sciences. But many surveys collect data with just a single question covering all forms of income. This raises questions over the reliability of the data collected. Issues of reliability are heightened when individuals are asked about the household total rather than own income alone. We argue that the large literature on measuring incomes has not devoted enough attention to ‘single-question’ surveys. We investigate the reliability of single-question data using the ONS Omnibus survey and British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey as examples. We compare the distributions of income in these surveys – individual income in the Omnibus and household income in the BSA --- with those in two larger UK surveys that measure income in much greater detail. Distributions compare less well for household income than for individual income. Disaggregation by gender proves fruitful in much of the analysis. We also establish levels of item non-response to the income question in single-question surveys from a wide range of countries.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Quantitative Social Science - Institute of Education, University of London in its series DoQSS Working Papers with number 09-03.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 01 Dec 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: forthcoming in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Series A)
Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:0903

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Keywords: income measurement; validity;

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Cited by:
  1. Jake Anders, 2012. "Using the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England for research into Higher Education access," DoQSS Working Papers 12-13, Department of Quantitative Social Science - Institute of Education, University of London.
  2. Thomas F. Crossley & Joachim K. Winter, 2012. "Asking Households about Expenditures: What Have We Learned?," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Marco Francesconi & Holly Sutherland & Francesca Zantomio, 2011. "A comparison of earnings measures from longitudinal and cross‐sectional surveys: evidence from the UK," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 174(2), pages 297-326, 04.
  4. Kirstine Hansen & Dylan Kneale, 2013. "Does How You Measure Income Make a Difference to Measuring Poverty? Evidence from the UK," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 110(3), pages 1119-1140, February.

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