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The Under-Reporting of Transfers in Household Surveys: Its Nature and Consequences

  • Bruce D. Meyer
  • Wallace K. C. Mok
  • James X. Sullivan

High rates of understatement are found for many government transfer programs and in many datasets. This understatement has major implications for our understanding of economic well-being and the effects of transfer programs. We provide estimates of the extent of under-reporting for ten transfer programs in five major nationally representative surveys by comparing reported weighted totals for these programs with totals obtained from government agencies. We also examine imputation procedures and rates. We find increasing under-reporting and imputation over time and sharp differences across programs and surveys. We explore reasons for under-reporting and how under-reporting biases existing studies and suggest corrections.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15181.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15181.

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Date of creation: Jul 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15181
Note: CH LS PE
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  1. Kathleen M. McGarry, 2002. "Guaranteed Income. SSI and the Well-Being of the Elderly Poor," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 49-84 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Anderson, Patricia M. & Meyer, Bruce D., 2006. "Unemployment Insurance Tax Burdens and Benefits: Funding Family Leave and Reforming the Payroll Tax," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(1), pages 77-95, March.
  3. John L. Czajka Gabrielle Denmead, 2008. "Income Data for Policy Analysis: A Comparative Assessment of Eight Surveys," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 19724257b78544bdbd55f15be, Mathematica Policy Research.
  4. Duncan, Greg J & Hill, Daniel H, 1989. "Assessing the Quality of Household Panel Data: The Case of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 7(4), pages 441-52, October.
  5. Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2009. "Five Decades of Consumption and Income Poverty," NBER Working Papers 14827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2007. "Further Results on Measuring the Well-Being of the Poor Using Income and Consumption," NBER Working Papers 13413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jonathan Fisher, 2006. "Income Imputation and the Analysis of Expenditure Data in the Consumer Expenditure Survey," Working Papers 394, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  8. Robert I. Lerman & Kelly S. Mikelson, 2004. "Examining the Relationship between the EITC and Food Stamp Program Participation Among Households with Children," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 190, Econometric Society.
  9. Bound, John & Brown, Charles & Mathiowetz, Nancy, 2001. "Measurement error in survey data," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 59, pages 3705-3843 Elsevier.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. repec:mpr:mprres:6195 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. 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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