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

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  • 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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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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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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