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

  • Bruce Meyer
  • Robert Goerge

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.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2011/CES-WP-11-14.pdf
File Function: First version, 2011
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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 11-14.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:11-14
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  1. Maia Guell & Luojia Hu, 2003. "Estimating the Probability of Leaving Unemployment Using Uncompleted Spells from Repeated Cross-section Data," Working Papers 854, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Michael P. Keane & Robert Moffitt, 1995. "A structural model of multiple welfare program participation and labor supply," Working Papers 557, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
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