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Beat the heap - an imputation strategy for valid inferences from rounded income data

  • Drechsler, Jörg

    ()

    (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany])

  • Kiesl, Hans

"Questions on income in surveys are prone to two sources of errors that can cause bias if not addressed adequately at the analysis stage. On the one hand, income is considered sensitive information and response rates on income questions generally tend to be lower than response rates for other non-sensitive questions. On the other hand respondents usually don't remember their exact income and thus tend to provide a rounded estimate. The negative effects of item nonresponse are well studied and most statistical agencies have developed sophisticated imputation methods to correct for this potential source of bias. However, to our knowledge the effects of rounding are hardly ever considered in practice, despite the fact that several studies have found strong evidence that most of the respondents round their reported income values. In this paper we illustrate the substantial impact that rounding can have on important measures derived from the income variable such as the poverty rate. To obtain unbiased estimates, we propose a two stage imputation strategy that estimates the posterior probability for rounding given the observed income values at the first stage and re-imputes the observed income values given the rounding probabilities at the second stage. A simulation study shows that the proposed imputation model can help overcome the possible negative effects of rounding. We also present results based on the household income variable from the German panel study 'Labour Market and Social Security.'" (Author's abstract, IAB-Doku) ((en))

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Paper provided by Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany] in its series IAB Discussion Paper with number 201402.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: 30 Jan 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iab:iabdpa:201402
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  1. Christopher R. Bollinger & Barry T. Hirsch, 2013. "Is Earnings Nonresponse Ignorable?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 407-416, May.
  2. F. Clementi & M. Gallegati, 2005. "Pareto's Law of Income Distribution: Evidence for Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States," Papers physics/0504217, arXiv.org, revised Mar 2006.
  3. Schenker, Nathaniel & Raghunathan, Trivellore E. & Chiu, Pei-Lu & Makuc, Diane M. & Zhang, Guangyu & Cohen, Alan J., 2006. "Multiple Imputation of Missing Income Data in the National Health Interview Survey," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 101, pages 924-933, September.
  4. Manski, Charles F. & Molinari, Francesca, 2010. "Rounding Probabilistic Expectations in Surveys," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 28(2), pages 219-231.
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