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

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce D. Meyer & Wallace K. C. Mok & James X. Sullivan, 2009. "The Under-Reporting of Transfers in Household Surveys: Its Nature and Consequences," NBER Working Papers 15181, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15181
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. repec:mpr:mprres:6195 is not listed on IDEAS
    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. 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.
    7. 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;National Tax Journal, vol. 59(1), pages 77-95, March.
    8. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2003:93:1:67-74_9 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. John L. Czajka & Gabrielle Denmead, "undated". "Income Data for Policy Analysis: A Comparative Assessment of Eight Surveys," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 19724257b78544bdbd55f15be, Mathematica Policy Research.
    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.
    14. 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 441-452, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C42 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Survey Methods
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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