Data Dictionary: ACS 2006 -- 2008 (3-Year Estimates)
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Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Universe: Universe: Population for whom poverty status is determined
Variable Details
B17002. Ratio Of Income To Poverty Level In The Past 12 Months
Universe: Universe: Population for whom poverty status is determined
B17002001Universe: Population for whom poverty status is determined
Percent base:
None - percentages not computed (variable is table universe)
Aggregation method:
Addition
Relevant Documentation:
Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2006-2008 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Ratio
This is a measure of the relative size of one number to a second number expressed as the quotient of the first number divided by the second. For example, the sex ratio is calculated by dividing the total number of males by the total number of females, and then multiplying by 100.



Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2006-2008 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Income in the Past 12 Months
The data on income were derived from answers to Questions 46 and 47, which were asked of the population 15 years old and over. "Total income" is the sum of the amounts reported separately for wage or salary income; net self-employment income; interest, dividends, or net rental or royalty income or income from estates and trusts; Social Security or railroad retirement income; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); public assistance or welfare payments; retirement, survivor, or disability pensions; and all other income. Receipts from the following sources are not included as income: capital gains, money received from the sale of property (unless the recipient was engaged in the business of selling such property); the value of income "in kind" from food stamps, public housing subsidies, medical care, employer contributions for individuals, etc.; withdrawal of bank deposits; money borrowed; tax refunds; exchange of money between relatives living in the same household; gifts and lump-sum inheritances, insurance payments, and other types of lump-sum receipts.
Income Type in the Past 12 Months
The eight types of income reported in the American Community Survey are defined as follows:
Wage or salary income
Wage or salary income includes total money earnings received for work performed as an employee during the past 12 months. It includes wages, salary, Armed Forces pay, commissions, tips, piece-rate payments, and cash bonuses earned before deductions were made for taxes, bonds, pensions, union dues, etc.
Self-employment income
Self-employment income includes both farm and non-farm self-employment income.

Farm self-employment incomeincludes net money income (gross receipts minus operating expenses) from the operation of a farm by a person on his or her own account, as an owner, renter, or sharecropper. Gross receipts include the value of all products sold, government farm programs, money received from the rental of farm equipment to others, and incidental receipts from the sale of wood, sand, gravel, etc. Operating expenses include cost of feed, fertilizer, seed, and other farming supplies, cash wages paid to farmhands, depreciation charges, rent, interest on farm mortgages, farm building repairs, farm taxes (not state and federal personal income taxes), etc. The value of fuel, food, or other farm products used for family living is not included as part of net income.

Non-farm self-employment incomeincludes net money income (gross receipts minus expenses) from one's own business, professional enterprise, or partnership. Gross receipts include the value of all goods sold and services rendered. Expenses include costs of goods purchased, rent, heat, light, power, depreciation charges, wages and salaries paid, business taxes (not personal income taxes), etc.
Interest, dividends, or net rental income
Interest, dividends, or net rental income includes interest on savings or bonds, dividends from stockholdings or membership in associations, net income from rental of property to others and receipts from boarders or lodgers, net royalties, and periodic payments from an estate or trust fund.
Social Security income
Social Security income includes Social Security pensions and survivor benefits, permanent disability insurance payments made by the Social Security Administration prior to deductions for medical insurance, and railroad retirement insurance checks from the U.S. government. Medicare reimbursements are not included.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a nationwide U.S. assistance program administered by the Social Security Administration that guarantees a minimum level of income for needy aged, blind, or disabled individuals. The Puerto Rico Community Survey questionnaire asks about the receipt of SSI; however, SSI is not a federally-administered program in Puerto Rico. Therefore, it is probably not being interpreted by most respondents in the same manner as SSI in the United States. The only way a resident of Puerto Rico could have appropriately reported SSI would have been if they lived in the United States at any time during the past 12-month reference period and received SSI.
Public assistance income
Public assistance income includes general assistance and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Separate payments received for hospital or other medical care (vendor payments), are excluded. This does not include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or noncash benefits such as Food Stamps. The terms "public assistance income" and "cash public assistance" are used interchangeably in the 2008 ACS data products.
Retirement, survivor, or disability income
Retirement income includes: (1) retirement pensions and survivor benefits from a former employer; labor union; or federal, state, or local government; and the U.S. military; (2) disability income from companies or unions; federal, state, or local government; and the U.S. military; (3) periodic receipts from annuities and insurance; and (4) regular income from IRA and Keogh plans. This does not include Social Security income.
All other income
All other income includes unemployment compensation, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) payments, alimony and child support, contributions received periodically from people not living in the household, military family allotments, and other kinds of periodic income other than earnings.
Cash Public Assistance
See "Public assistance income."
Income of Households
This includes the income of the householder and all other individuals 15 years old and over in the household, whether they are related to the householder or not. Because many households consist of only one person, average household income is usually less than average family income. Although the household income statistics cover the past 12 months, the characteristics of individuals and the composition of households refer to the time of interview. Thus, the income of the household does not include amounts received by individuals who were members of the household during all or part of the past 12 months if these individuals no longer resided in the household at the time of interview. Similarly, income amounts reported by individuals who did not reside in the household during the past 12 months but who were members of the household at the time of interview are included. However, the composition of most households was the same during the past 12 months as at the time of interview.
Income of Families
In compiling statistics on family income, the incomes of all members 15 years old and over related to the householder are summed and treated as a single amount. Although the family income statistics cover the past 12 months, the characteristics of individuals and the composition of families refer to the time of interview. Thus, the income of the family does not include amounts received by individuals who were members of the family during all or part of the past 12 months if these individuals no longer resided with the family at the time of interview. Similarly, income amounts reported by individuals who did not reside with the family during the past 12 months but who were members of the family at the time of interview are included. However, the composition of most families was the same during the past 12 months as at the time of interview.
Income of Individuals
Income for individuals is obtained by summing the eight types of income for each person 15 years old and over. The characteristics of individuals are based on the time of interview even though the amounts are for the past 12 months.
Median Income
The median divides the income distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median income and one-half above the median. For households and families, the median income is based on the distribution of the total number of households and families including those with no income. The median income for individuals is based on individuals 15 years old and over with income. Median income for households, families, and individuals is computed on the basis of a standard distribution. (See the "Standard Distributions" section under "Derived Measures.") Median income is rounded to the nearest whole dollar. Median income figures are calculated using linear interpolation if the width of the interval containing the estimate is $2,500 or less. If the width of the interval containing the estimate is greater than $2,500, Pareto interpolation is used. (For more information on medians and interpolation, see "Derived Measures.")
Aggregate Income
Aggregate income is the sum of all incomes for a particular universe. Aggregate income is subject to rounding, which means that all cells in a matrix are rounded to the nearest hundred dollars. (For more information, see "Aggregate" under "Derived Measures.")
Mean Income
Mean income is the amount obtained by dividing the aggregate income of a particular statistical universe by the number of units in that universe. For example, mean household income is obtained by dividing total household income by the total number of households. (The aggregate used to calculate mean income is rounded. For more information, see "Aggregate income.")

For the various types of income, the means are based on households having those types of income. For household income and family income, the mean is based on the distribution of the total number of households and families including those with no income. The mean income for individuals is based on individuals 15 years old and over with income. Mean income is rounded to the nearest whole dollar.

Care should be exercised in using and interpreting mean income values for small subgroups of the population. Because the mean is influenced strongly by extreme values in the distribution, it is especially susceptible to the effects of sampling variability, misreporting, and processing errors. The median, which is not affected by extreme values, is, therefore, a better measure than the mean when the population base is small. The mean, nevertheless, is shown in some data products for most small subgroups because, when weighted according to the number of cases, the means can be computed for areas and groups other than those shown in Census Bureau tabulations. (For more information on means, see "Derived Measures.")
Income Quintile Upper Limits
Negative incomes are converted to zero for these measures. These measures are the quintile cutoffs, along with the 95th percentile of the distribution. (For more information on quintiles, see "Derived Measures.")
Means of Household Income by Quintiles
Means of household income by quintiles are calculated by dividing aggregate household income in each quintile by the number of households in each quintile (one-fifth of the total number of households). (For more information on aggregates, see "Aggregate Income." For more information on quintiles, see "Derived Measures.")
Shares of Household Income by Quintiles
Negative incomes are converted to zero for these measures. These measures are the aggregate household income in each quintile as a percentage of the total aggregate household income. (For more information on aggregates, see "Aggregate income." For more information on quintiles, see "Derived Measures.")
Gini Index of Income Inequality
Negative incomes are converted to zero. The Gini index of income inequality measures the dispersion of the household income distribution. (For more information on the Gini index, see "Derived Measures.")
Earnings
Earnings are defined as the sum of wage or salary income and net income from self-employment. "Earnings" represent the amount of income received regularly for people 16 years old and over before deductions for personal income taxes, Social Security, bond purchases, union dues, Medicare deductions, etc. An individual with earnings is one who has either wage/salary income or self-employment income, or both. Respondents who "break even" in self-employment income and therefore have zero self-employment earnings also are considered "individuals with earnings."
Median Earnings
The median divides the earnings distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median and one-half above the median. Median earnings is restricted to individuals 16 years old and over with earnings and is computed on the basis of a standard distribution. (See the "Standard Distributions" section under "Derived Measures.") Median earnings figures are calculated using linear interpolation if the width of the interval containing the estimate is $2,500 or less. If the width of the interval containing the estimate is greater than $2,500, Pareto interpolation is used. (For more information on medians and interpolation, see "Derived Measures.")
Aggregate Earnings
Aggregate earnings are the sum of wage/salary and net self-employment income for a particular universe of people 16 years old and over. Aggregate earnings are rounded to the nearest hundred dollars. (For more information, see "Aggregate" under "Derived Measures.")
Mean Earnings
Mean earnings is calculated by dividing aggregate earnings by the population 16 years old and over with earnings. (The aggregate used to calculate mean earnings is rounded. For more information, see "Aggregate earnings." ) Mean earnings is rounded to the nearest whole dollar. (For more information on means, see "Derived Measures.")
Women's Earnings as a Percentage of Men's Earnings
Womens earnings as a percentage of mens earnings is defined as median earnings for females who worked full-time, year-round divided by median earnings for males who worked full-time, year-round, multiplied by 100. (For more information see "full-time, year-round workers" under "Usual hours worked per weeks worked in the past 12 months" and "Median earnings.")
Per Capita Income
Per capita income is the mean income computed for every man, woman, and child in a particular group including those living in group quarters. It is derived by dividing the aggregate income of a particular group by the total population in that group. (The aggregate used to calculate per capita income is rounded. For more information, see "Aggregate" under "Derived Measures.") Per capita income is rounded to the nearest whole dollar. (For more information on means, see "Derived Measures.")
Adjusting Income for Inflation
Income components were reported for the 12 months preceding the interview month. Monthly Consumer Price Indices (CPI) factors were used to inflation-adjust these components to a reference calendar year (January through December). For example, a household interviewed in March 2008 reports their income for March 2007 through February 2008. Their income is adjusted to the 2008 reference calendar year by multiplying their reported income by 2008 average annual CPI (January-December 2008) and then dividing by the average CPI for March 2007-February 2008.

In order to inflate income amounts from previous years, the dollar values on individual records are inflated to the latest years dollar values by multiplying by a factor equal to the average annual CPI-U-RS factor for the current year, divided by the average annual CPI-U-RS factor for the earlier/earliest year.
Limitation of the Data
Since answers to income questions are frequently based on memory and not on records, many people tend to forget minor or sporadic sources of income and, therefore, underreport their income. Underreporting tends to be more pronounced for income sources that are not derived from earnings, such as public assistance, interest, dividends, and net rental income.

Extensive computer editing procedures were instituted in the data processing operation to reduce some of these reporting errors and to improve the accuracy of the income data. These procedures corrected various reporting deficiencies and improved the consistency of reported income questions associated with work experience and information on occupation and class of worker. For example, if people reported they were self employed on their own farm, not incorporated, but had reported only wage and salary earnings, the latter amount was shifted to self-employment income. Also, if any respondent reported total income only, the amount was generally assigned to one of the types of income questions according to responses to the work experience and class-of-worker questions. Another type of problem involved non-reporting of income data. Where income information was not reported, procedures were devised to impute appropriate values with either no income or positive or negative dollar amounts for the missing entries. (For more information on imputation, see "Accuracy of the Data.")

In income tabulations for households and families, the lowest income group (for example, less than $10,000) includes units that were classified as having no income in the past 12 months. Many of these were living on income "in kind," savings, or gifts, were newly created families, or were families in which the sole breadwinner had recently died or left the household. However, many of the households and families who reported no income probably had some money income that was not reported in the American Community Survey. Users should exercise caution when comparing income and earnings estimates for individuals from the 2006, 2007, or 2008 ACS to earlier years because of the introduction of group quarters. Household and family income estimates are not affected by the inclusion of group quarters.

Comparability
The income data shown in ACS tabulations are not directly comparable with those that may be obtained from statistical summaries of income tax returns. Income, as defined for federal tax purposes, differs somewhat from the Census Bureau concept. Moreover, the coverage of income tax statistics is different because of the exemptions for people having small amounts of income and the inclusion of net capital gains in tax returns. Furthermore, members of some families file separate returns and others file joint returns; consequently, the tax reporting unit is not consistent with the census household, family, or person units. The earnings data shown in ACS tabulations are not directly comparable with earnings records of the Social Security Administration (SSA). The earnings record data for SSA excludes the earnings of some civilian government employees, some employees of nonprofit organizations, workers covered by the Railroad Retirement Act, and people not covered by the program because of insufficient earnings. Because ACS data are obtained from household questionnaires, they may differ from SSA earnings record data, which are based upon employers reports and the federal income tax returns of self-employed people.

The Commerce Departments Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) publishes annual data on aggregate and per-capita personal income received by the population for states, metropolitan areas, and selected counties. Aggregate income estimates based on the income statistics shown in ACS products usually would be less than those shown in the BEA income series for several reasons. The ACS data are obtained from a household survey, whereas the BEA income series is estimated largely on the basis of data from administrative records of business and governmental sources. Moreover, the definitions of income are different. The BEA income series includes some questions not included in the income data shown in ACS publications, such as income "in kind," income received by nonprofit institutions, the value of services of banks and other financial intermediaries rendered to people without the assessment of specific charges, and Medicare payments. On the other hand, the ACS income data include contributions for support received from people not residing in the same household if the income is received on a regular basis.
In comparing income for the most recent year with income from earlier years, users should note that an increase or decrease in money income does not necessarily represent a comparable change in real income, unless adjusted for inflation.
Question/Concept History
The 1998 ACS questionnaire deleted references to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) because of welfare law reforms. In 1999, the ACS questions were changed to be consistent with the questions for the Census 2000. The instructions are slightly different to reflect differences in the reference periods. The ACS asks about the past 12 months, and the questions for the decennial census ask about the previous calendar year.

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2006-2008 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months
Poverty statistics in ACS products adhere to the standards specified by the Office of Management and Budget in Statistical Policy Directive 14. The Census Bureau uses a set of dollar value thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty. Further, poverty thresholds for people living alone or with nonrelatives (unrelated individuals) vary by age (under 65 years or 65 years and older). The poverty thresholds for two-person families also vary by the age of the householder. If a familys total income is less than the dollar value of the appropriate threshold, then that family and every individual in it are considered to be in poverty. Similarly, if an unrelated individual's total income is less than the appropriate threshold, then that individual is considered to be in poverty.
How the Census Bureau Determines Poverty Status
In determining the poverty status of families and unrelated individuals, the Census Bureau uses thresholds (income cutoffs) arranged in a two-dimensional matrix. The matrix consists of family size (from one person to nine or more people) cross-classified by presence and number of family members under 18 years old (from no children present to eight or more children present). Unrelated individuals and two-person families are further differentiated by age of reference person (RP) (under 65 years old and 65 years old and over).

To determine a person's poverty status, one compares the person's total family income in the last 12 months with the poverty threshold appropriate for that person's family size and composition (see example below). If the total income of that person's family is less than the threshold appropriate for that family, then the person is considered "below the poverty level,"together with every member of his or her family. If a person is not living with anyone related by birth, marriage, or adoption, then the person's own income is compared with his or her poverty threshold. The total number of people below the poverty level is the sum of people in families and the number of unrelated individuals with incomes in the last 12 months below the poverty threshold.

Since ACS is a continuous survey, people respond throughout the year. Because the income questions specify a period covering the last 12 months, the appropriate poverty thresholds are determined by multiplying the base-year poverty thresholds (1982) by the average of the monthly inflation factors for the 12 months preceding the data collection. See the table below titled "Poverty Thresholds in 1982," by "Size of Family and Number of Related Children Under 18 Years (Dollars)," for appropriate base thresholds. See the table "The 2008 Poverty Factors" for the appropriate adjustment based on interview month.

For example, consider a family of three with one child under 18 years of age, interviewed in July 2008 and reporting a total family income of $14,000 for the last 12 months (July 2007 to June 2008). The base year (1982) threshold for such a family is $7,765, while the average of the 12 inflation factors is 2.19359. Multiplying $7,765 by 2.19359 determines the appropriate poverty threshold for this family type, which is $17,033. Comparing the familys income of $14,000 with the poverty threshold shows that the family and all people in the family are considered to have been in poverty. The only difference for determining poverty status for unrelated individuals is that the person's individual total income is compared with the threshold rather than the familys income.

For example, consider a family of three with one child under 18 years of age, interviewed in July 2008 and reporting a total family income of $14,000 for the last 12 months (July 2007 to June 2008). The base year (1982) threshold for such a family is $7,765, while the average of the 12 inflation factors is 2.19359. Multiplying $7,765 by 2.19359 determines the appropriate poverty threshold for this family type, which is $17,033. Comparing the familys income of $14,000 with the poverty threshold shows that the family and all people in the family are considered to have been in poverty. The only difference for determining poverty status for unrelated individuals is that the person's individual total income is compared with the threshold rather than the familys income.
The 2008 Poverty Factors:
Interview Month Poverty Factors
January 2.14841
February 2.15589
March 2.16297
April 2.17003
May 2.17705
June 2.18455
July 2.19359
August 2.20366
September 2.21330
October 2.22219
November 2.22879
December 2.23073

Poverty Thresholds in 1982, by Size of Family and Number of Related Children Under 18 Years Old (Dollars)
Size of family unit Related children under 18 years
None One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight or more
One person (unrelated individual)                  
Under 65 years 5,019                
65 years and over 4,626                
Two persons                  
Householder under 65 years 6,459 6,649              
Householder 65 years and over 5,831 6,624              
Three persons 7,546 7,765 7,772            
Four persons 9,950 10,112 9,783 9,817          
Five persons 11,999 12,173 11,801 11,512 11,336        
Six persons 13,801 13,855 13,570 13,296 12,890 12,649      
Seven persons 15,879 15,979 15,637 15,399 14,955 14,437 13,869    
Eight persons or more 17,760 17,917 17,594 17,312 16,911 16,403 15,872 15,738  
Nine persons or more 21,364 21,468 21,183 20,943 20,549 20,008 19,517 19,397 18,649


Individuals for Whom Poverty Status is Determined
Poverty status was determined for all people except institutionalized people, people in military group quarters, people in college dormitories, and unrelated individuals under 15 years old. These groups were excluded from the numerator and denominator when calculating poverty rates.
Specified Poverty Levels
For various reasons, the official poverty definition does not satisfy all the needs of data users. Therefore, some of the data reflect the number of people below different percentages of the poverty thresholds. These specified poverty levels are obtained by multiplying the official thresholds by the appropriate factor. Using the previous example cited (a family of three with one related child under 18 years responding in July 2008), the dollar value of 125 percent of the poverty threshold was $ 21,291 ($ 17,033x 1.25).
Income Deficit
Income deficit represents the difference between the total income in the last 12 months of families and unrelated individuals below the poverty level and their respective poverty thresholds. In computing the income deficit, families reporting a net income loss are assigned zero dollars and for such cases the deficit is equal to the poverty threshold. This measure provides an estimate of the amount, which would be required to raise the incomes of all poor families and unrelated individuals to their respective poverty thresholds. The income deficit is thus a measure of the degree of the impoverishment of a family or unrelated individual. However, please use caution when comparing the average deficits of families with different characteristics. Apparent differences in average income deficits may, to some extent, be a function of differences in family size.
Aggregate Income Deficit
Aggregate income deficit refers only to those families or unrelated individuals who are classified as below the poverty level. It is defined as the group (e.g., type of family) sum total of differences between the appropriate threshold and total family income or total personal income. Aggregate income deficit is subject to rounding, which means that all cells in a matrix are rounded to the nearest hundred dollars. (For more information, see "Aggregate" under "Derived Measures.")
Mean Income Deficit
Mean income deficit represents the amount obtained by dividing the total income deficit for a group below the poverty level by the number of families (or unrelated individuals) in that group. (The aggregate used to calculate mean income deficit is rounded. For more information, see "Aggregate Income Deficit.") As mentioned above, please use caution when comparing mean income deficits of families with different characteristics, as apparent differences may, to some extent, be a function of differences in family size. Mean income deficit is rounded to the nearest whole dollar. (For more information on means, see "Derived Measures.")
Question/Concept History
Derivation of the Current Poverty Measure
When the original poverty definition was developed in 1964 by the Social Security Administration (SSA), it focused on family food consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) used its data about the nutritional needs of children and adults to construct food plans for families. Within each food plan, dollar amounts varied according to the total number of people in the family and the family's composition, that is, the number of children within each family. The cheapest of these plans, the Economy Food Plan, was designed to address the dietary needs of families on an austere budget.

Since the USDAs 1955 Food Consumption Survey showed that families of three or more people across all income levels spent roughly one-third of their income on food, the SSA multiplied the cost of the Economy Food Plan by three to obtain dollar figures for total family income. These dollar figures, with some adjustments, later became the official poverty thresholds. Since the Economy Food Plan budgets varied by family size and composition, so too did the poverty thresholds. For two-person families, the thresholds were adjusted by slightly higher factors because those households had higher fixed costs. Thresholds for unrelated individuals were calculated as a fixed proportion of the corresponding thresholds for two-person families. The poverty thresholds are revised annually to allow for changes in the cost of living as reflected in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). The poverty thresholds are the same for all parts of the country; they are not adjusted for regional, state, or local variations in the cost of living .
Comparability
Because of differences in survey methodology (questionnaire design, method of data collection, sample size, etc.), the poverty rate estimates obtained from American Community Survey data may differ from those reported in the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, and those reported in Census 2000. Please refer to http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/newguidance.html for more details.
Poverty Status of Households in the Past 12 Months
Since poverty is defined at the family level and not the household level, the poverty status of the household is determined by the poverty status of the householder. Households are classified as poor when the total income of the householder's family in the last 12 months is below the appropriate poverty threshold. (For nonfamily householders, their own income is compared with the appropriate threshold.) The income of people living in the household who are unrelated to the householder is not considered when determining the poverty status of a household, nor does their presence affect the family size in determining the appropriate threshold. The poverty thresholds vary depending upon three criteria: size of family, number of children, and, for one- and two- person families, age of the householder.
Limitation of the Data
Beginning in 2006, the population in group quarters (GQ) is included in the ACS. The part of the group quarters population in the poverty universe (for example, people living in group homes or those living in agriculture workers dormitories) is many times more likely to be in poverty than people living in households. Direct comparisons of the data would likely result in erroneous conclusions about changes in the poverty status of all people in the poverty universe.