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Errors in Survey Reporting and Imputation and Their Effects on Estimates of Food Stamp Program Participation

Author

Listed:
  • Bruce Meyer
  • Robert Goerge

Abstract

Benefit receipt in major household surveys is often underreported. This misreporting leads to biased estimates of the economic circumstances of disadvantaged populations, program takeup, and the distributional effects of government programs, and other program effects. We use administrative data on Food Stamp Program (FSP) participation matched to American Community Survey (ACS) and Current Population Survey (CPS) household data. We show that nearly thirty-five percent of true recipient households do not report receipt in the ACS and fifty percent do not report receipt in the CPS. Misreporting, both false negatives and false positives, varies with individual characteristics, leading to complicated biases in FSP analyses. We then directly examine the determinants of program receipt using our combined administrative and survey data. The combined data allow us to examine accurate participation using individual characteristics missing in administrative data. Our results differ from conventional estimates using only survey data, as such estimates understate participation by single parents, non-whites, low income households, and other groups. To evaluate the use of Census Bureau imputed ACS and CPS data, we also examine whether our estimates using survey data alone are closer to those using the accurate combined data when imputed survey observations are excluded. Interestingly, excluding the imputed observations leads to worse ACS estimates, but has less effect on the CPS estimates.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce Meyer & Robert Goerge, 2011. "Errors in Survey Reporting and Imputation and Their Effects on Estimates of Food Stamp Program Participation," Working Papers 11-14, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:11-14
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    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2011/CES-WP-11-14.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2011
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2003. "Measuring the Well-Being of the Poor Using Income and Consumption," NBER Working Papers 9760, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Guell, Maia & Hu, Luojia, 2006. "Estimating the probability of leaving unemployment using uncompleted spells from repeated cross-section data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, pages 307-341.
    3. David Card & Andrew K. G. Hildreth & Lara D. Shore-Sheppard, 2001. "The Measurement of Medicaid Coverage in the SIPP: Evidence from California, 1990-1996," NBER Working Papers 8514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Keane, Michael & Moffitt, Robert, 1998. "A Structural Model of Multiple Welfare Program Participation and Labor Supply," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(3), pages 553-589, August.
    5. Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2006. "Consumption, Income, and Material Well-Being After Welfare Reform," NBER Working Papers 11976, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Dean Jolliffe & Craig Gundersen & Laura Tiehen & Joshua Winicki, 2005. "Food Stamp Benefits and Child Poverty," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 87(3), pages 569-581.
    7. Bruce D. Meyer & Wallace K. C. Mok & James X. Sullivan, 2009. "The Under-Reporting of Transfers in Household Surveys: Its Nature and Consequences," Working Papers 0903, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    8. Rebecca M. Blank & Patricia Ruggles, 1993. "When Do Women Use AFDC & Food Stamps? The Dynamics of Eligibility vs. Participation," NBER Working Papers 4429, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Cancian, Maria & Han, Eunhee & Noyes, Jennifer L., 2014. "From multiple program participation to disconnection: Changing trajectories of TANF and SNAP beneficiaries in Wisconsin," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, pages 91-102.
    2. Reimer, Jeffrey J. & Weerasooriya, Senal & West, Tyler T., 2015. "How Does the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Affect the U.S. Economy?," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Cambridge University Press, pages 233-252.
    3. MacEwan, Joanna P. & Smith, Aaron & Alston, Julian M., 2016. "The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, energy balance, and weight gain," Food Policy, Elsevier, pages 103-120.
    4. Peter Ganong & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2013. "The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in SNAP Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes," NBER Working Papers 19363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Pierre Nguimkeu & Augustine Denteh & Rusty Tchernis, 2017. "On the Estimation of Treatment Effects with Endogenous Misreporting," NBER Working Papers 24117, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Scherpf, Erik & Newman, Constance & Prell, Mark, 2014. "Targeting of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits: Evidence from the ACS and NY SNAP Administrative Records," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 174295, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    7. repec:ags:afjare:225656 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Scherpf, Erik, 2013. "The Path to SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Dynamics Among Young Adults," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150349, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    9. Johnson, Anna D. & Herbst, Chris M., 2013. "Can we trust parental reports of child care subsidy receipt?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, pages 984-993.
    10. Andrew London & Colleen Heflin, 2015. "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Use Among Active-Duty Military Personnel, Veterans, and Reservists," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), pages 805-826.
    11. Coleman-Jensen, Alisha & Gregory, Christian & Singh, Anita, 2014. "Household Food Security in the United States in 2013," Economic Research Report 183589, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Measurement error; Survey errors; program takeup; food stamps; underreporting; imputation; poverty;

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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