Data Dictionary: ACS 2009 (1-Year Estimates)
you are here: choose a survey survey data set table details
Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Table: C17003. Poverty Status In The Past 12 Months Of Individuals By Educational Attainment [11]
Universe: Population 25 years and over for whom poverty status is determined
Table Details
C17003. Poverty Status In The Past 12 Months Of Individuals By Educational Attainment
Universe: Population 25 years and over for whom poverty status is determined
Relevant Documentation:
Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2009 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 familytotal 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 individuals 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 in "Appendix A" 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 2009 Poverty Factors" in "Appendix A" 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 2009 and reporting a total family income of $14,000 for the last 12 months (July 2008 to June 2009). The base year (1982) threshold for such a family is $7,765, while the average of the 12 inflation factors is 2.22421. Multiplying $7,765 by 2.22421 determines the appropriate poverty threshold for this family type, which is $17,271. Comparing the familyincome 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 family's income.

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 2009), the dollar value of 125 percent of the poverty threshold was $ 21,589 ($ 17,271x 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.

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2009 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Educational Attainment
Educational attainment data are needed for use in assessing the socioeconomic condition of the U.S. population. Government agencies also require these data for funding allocations and program planning and implementation. These data are needed to determine the extent of illiteracy rates of citizens in language minorities in order to meet statutory requirements under the Voting Rights Act. Based on data about educational attainment, school districts are allocated funds to provide classes in basic skills to adults who have not completed high school.

Data on educational attainment were derived from answers to Question 11, which was asked of all respondents. Educational attainment data are tabulated for people 18 years old and over. Respondents are classified according to the highest degree or the highest level of school completed. The question included instructions for persons currently enrolled in school to report the level of the previous grade attended or the highest degree received.

The educational attainment question included a response category that allowed people to report completing the 12th grade without receiving a high school diploma. Respondents who received a regular high school diploma and did not attend college were instructed to report "Regular high school diploma". Respondents who received the equivalent of a high school diploma (for example, passed the test of General Educational Development (G.E.D.)), and did not attend college, were instructed to report "GED or alternative credential."

"Some college" is in two categories: "Some college credit, but less than 1 year of college credit" and "1 or more years of college credit, no degree." The category "Associate's degree" included people whose highest degree is an associates degree, which generally requires 2 years of college level work and is either in an occupational program that prepares them for a specific occupation, or an academic program primarily in the arts and sciences. The course work may or may not be transferable to a bachelor's degree. Master's degrees include the traditional MA and MS degrees and field-specific degrees, such as MSW, MEd, MBA, MLS, and MEng. Instructions included in the respondent instruction guide for mailout/mailback respondents only provided the following examples of professional school degrees: Medicine, dentistry, chiropractic, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, podiatry, veterinary medicine, law, and theology. The order in which degrees were listed suggested that doctorate degrees were "higher" than professional school degrees, which were "higher" than master's degrees. If more than one box was filled, the response was edited to the highest level or degree reported.

The instructions further specified that schooling completed in foreign or ungraded school systems should be reported as the equivalent level of schooling in the regular American system. The instructions specified that certificates or diplomas for training in specific trades or from vocational, technical or business schools were not to be reported. Honorary degrees awarded for a respondent's accomplishments were not to be reported.

High School Graduate or Higher
This category includes people whose highest degree was a high school diploma or its equivalent, people who attended college but did not receive a degree, and people who received an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or professional or doctorate degree. People who reported completing the 12th grade but not receiving a diploma are not included.

Not Enrolled, Not High School Graduate
This category includes people of compulsory school attendance age or above who were not enrolled in school and were not high school graduates. These people may be referred to as "high school dropouts." There is no restriction on when they "dropped out" of school; therefore, they may have dropped out before high school and never attended high school.

Question/Concept History
Since 1999, the American Community Survey question does not have the response category for "Vocational, technical, or business school degree" that the 1996-1998 American Community Surveys question had. Starting in 1999, the American Community Survey question had two categories for some college: "Some college credit, but less than 1 year" and "1 or more years of college, no degree." The 1996-1998 American Community Survey question had one category: "Some college but no degree."

In the 1996-1998 American Community Survey, the educational attainment question was used to estimate level of enrollment. Since 1999, a question regarding grade of enrollment was included.

The 1999-2007 American Community Survey attainment question grouped grade categories below high school into the following three categories: "Nursery school to 4th grade," "5th grade or 6th grade," and "7th grade or 8th grade." The 1996-1998 American Community Survey question allowed a write-in for highest grade completed for grades 1-11 in addition to "Nursery or preschool" and "Kindergarten."

Beginning in 2008, the American Community Survey attainment question was changed to the following categories for levels up to ""Grade 12, no diploma:" "Nursery school," "Kindergarten," "Grade 1 through grade 11," and "12th grade, no diploma." The survey question allowed a write-in for the highest grade completed for grades 1-11. In addition, the category that was previously "High school graduate (including GED)" was broken into two categories: "Regular high school diploma" and "GED or alternative credential." The term credit for the two some college categories was emphasized. The phrase beyond a bachelor's degree was added to the professional degree category.

Limitation of the Data
Beginning in 2006, the population in group quarters (GQ) is included in the ACS. Some types of GQ populations may have educational attainment distributions that are different from the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the educational attainment distribution. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population. The Census Bureau tested the changes introduced to the 2008 version of the educational attainment question in the 2006 ACS Content Test. The results of this testing show that the changes may introduce an inconsistency in the data produced for this question as observed from the years 2007 to 2008, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Educational Attainment" on the ACS website (www.census.gov/acs).

Comparability
New questions were added to the 2008 ACS CATI/CAPI instrument. Respondents who received a high school diploma, GED or equivalent were also asked if they had completed any college credit. Therefore, data users may notice a decrease in the number of high school graduates relative to previous years because those people are now being captured in the "Some college credit, but less than 1 year of college credit" or "1 or more years of college credit, no degree categories." For more information see the report titled Report P.2.b: "Evaluation Report Covering Educational Attainment" on the ACS website (www.census.gov/acs).

Data about educational attainment are also collected from the decennial Census and from the Current Population Survey (CPS). ACS data is generally comparable to data from the Census. For more information about the comparability of ACS and CPS data, please see the link for the Fact Sheet and the Comparison Report from the CPS Educational Attainment page.