Data Dictionary: ACS 2007 -- 2009 (3-Year Estimates)
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Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Table: B17020H. Poverty Status In The Past 12 Months By Age (White Alone, Not Hispanic Or Latino) [17]
Universe: White alone, not Hispanic or Latino population for whom poverty status is determined
Table Details
B17020H. Poverty Status In The Past 12 Months By Age (White Alone, Not Hispanic Or Latino)
Universe: White alone, not Hispanic or Latino population for whom poverty status is determined
Variable Label
Relevant Documentation:
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.

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.

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. 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 ( for more details.

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2007-2009 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
The data on age were derived from answers to Question 4. The age classification is based on the age of the person in complete years at the time of interview. Both age and date of birth are used in combination to calculate the most accurate age at the time of the interview. Respondents are asked to give an age in whole, completed years as of interview date as well as the month, day and year of birth. People are not to round an age up if the person is close to having a birthday and to estimate an age if the exact age is not known. An additional instruction on babies also asks respondents to print "0" for babies less than one year old. Inconsistently reported and missing values are assigned or imputed based on the values of other variables for that person, from other people in the household, or from people in other households ("hot deck" imputation).

Age is asked for all person's in a household or group quarters. On the mailout/mailback paper questionnaire for households, both age and date of birth are asked for person's listed as person numbers 1-5 on the form. Only age (in years) is initially asked for person's listed as 6-12 on the mailout/mailback paper questionnaire. If a respondent indicates that there are more than 5 people living in the household, then the household is eligible for Failed Edit Follow-up (FEFU). During FEFU operations, telephone center staffers call respondents to obtain missing data. This includes asking date of birth for any person in the household missing date of birth information. In Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews (CATI) and Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) instruments both age and date of birth is asked for all person's. In 2006, the ACS began collecting data in group quarters (GQs). This included asking both age and date of birth for person's living in a group quarters. For additional data collection methodology, please see

Data on age are used to determine the applicability of other questions for a particular individual and to classify other characteristics in tabulations. Age data are needed to interpret most social and economic characteristics used to plan and analyze programs and policies. Age is central for any number of federal programs that target funds or services to children, working-age adults, women of childbearing age, or the older population. The U.S. Department of Education uses census age data in its formula for allotment to states. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs uses age to develop its mandated state projections on the need for hospitals, nursing homes, cemeteries, domiciliary services, and other benefits for veterans. For more information on the use of age data in Federal programs, please see

Median Age
The median age is the age that divides the population into two equal-size groups. Half of the population is older than the median age and half is younger. Median age is based on a standard distribution of the population by single years of age and is shown to the nearest tenth of a year. (See the sections on "Standard Distributions" and "Medians" under "Derived Measures".)

Age Dependency Ratio
The age dependency ratio is derived by dividing the combined under 18 years and 65 years and over populations by the 18-to-64 population and multiplying by 100.

Old-Age Dependency Ratio
The old-age dependency ratio is derived by dividing the population 65 years and over by the 18-to-64 population and multiplying by 100.

Child Dependency Ratio
The child dependency ratio is derived by dividing the population under 18 years by the 18-to-64 population, and multiplying by 100.

Question/Concept History
The 1996-2002 American Community Survey question asked for month, day, and year of birth before age. Since 2003, the American Community Survey question asked for age, followed by month, day, and year of birth. In 2008, an additional instruction was provided with the age and date of birth question on the American Community Survey questionnaire to report babies as age 0 when the child was less than 1 year old. The addition of this instruction occurred after 2005 National Census Test results indicated increased accuracy of age reporting for babies less than one year old.

Limitation of the Data
Beginning in 2006, the population living in group quarters (GQ) was included in the American Community Survey population universe. Some types of group quarters have populations with age distributions that are very different from that of the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the age distribution for a given geographic area. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population. For example, in areas with large colleges and universities, the percent of individuals 18-24 would increase due to the inclusion of GQs in the American Community Survey universe.

Caution should be taken when comparing population in age groups across time. The entire population continually ages into older age groups over time, and babies fill in the youngest age group. Therefore, the population of a certain age is made up of a completely different group of people in one time period than in another (e.g. one age group in 2000 versus same age group in 2009). Since populations occasionally experience booms/increases and busts/decreases in births, deaths, or migration (for example, the postwar Baby Boom from 1946-1964), one should not necessarily expect that the population in an age group in one year should be similar in size or proportion to the population in the same age group in a different period in time. For example, Baby Boomers were age 36 to 54 in Census 2000 while they were age 45 to 63 in 2009 ACS. The age structure and distribution would therefore shift in those age groups to reflect the change in people occupying those age-specific groups over time.

Data users should also be aware of methodology differences that may exist between different data sources if they are comparing American Community Survey age data to data sources, such as Population Estimates or Decennial Census data. For example, the American Community Survey data are that of a respondent-based survey and subject to various quality measures, such as sampling and nonsampling error, response rates and item allocation error. This differs in design and methodology from other data sources, such as Population Estimates, which is not a survey and involves computational methodology to derive intercensal estimates of the population. While ACS estimates are controlled to Population Estimates for age at the nation, state and county levels of geography as part of the ACS weighting procedure, variation may exist in the age structure of a population at lower levels of geography when comparing different time periods or comparing across time due to the absence of controls below the county geography level. For more information on American Community Survey data accuracy and weighting procedures, please see

It should also be noted that although the American Community Survey (ACS) produces population, demographic and housing unit estimates, it is the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program that produces and disseminates theofficial estimates of the population for the nation, states, counties, cities and towns and estimates of housing units for states and counties. (Please refer to:

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2007-2009 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as "White" or report entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish.

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2007-2009 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
Hispanic or Latino Origin
The data on the Hispanic or Latino population were derived from answers to a question that was asked of all people. The terms "Hispanic", "Latino," and "Spanish" are used interchangeably. Some respondents identify with all three terms while others may identify with only one of these three specific terms. Hispanics or Latinos who identify with the terms "Hispanic", "Latino," or "Spanish" are those who classify themselves in one of the specific "Hispanic", "Latino", or "Spanish" categories listed on the questionnaire ("Mexican," "Puerto Rican," or "Cuban") as well as those who indicate that they are another "Hispanic", "Latino," or "Spanish" origin. People who do not identify with one of the specific origins listed on the questionnaire but indicate that they are another "Hispanic", "Latino," or "Spanish" origin are those whose origins are from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, or the Dominican Republic. Up to two write-in responses to the "another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin" category are coded.

Origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person's parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as "Hispanic", "Latino," or "Spanish" may be of any race.
Hispanic origin is used in numerous programs and is vital in making policy decisions. These data are needed to determine compliance with provisions of antidiscrimination in employment and minority recruitment legislation. Under the Voting Rights Act, data about Hispanic origin are essential to ensure enforcement of bilingual election rules. Hispanic origin classifications used by the Census Bureau and other federal agencies meet the requirements of standards issued by the Office of Management and Budget in 1997 (Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity). These standards set forth guidance for statistical collection and reporting on race and ethnicity used by all federal agencies.

Some tabulations are shown by the origin of the householder. In all cases where the origin of households, families, or occupied housing units is classified as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish, the origin of the householder is used. (For more information, see the discussion of householder under "Household Type and Relationship.")

Coding of Hispanic Origin Write-in Responses
There were two types of coding operations: (1) automated coding where a write-in response was automatically coded if it matched a write-in response already contained in a database known as the "master file," and (2) expert coding, which took place when a write-in response did not match an entry already on the master file, and was sent to expert coders familiar with the subject matter. During the coding process, subject-matter specialists reviewed and coded written entries from the "Yes, another Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin" write-in response category on the Hispanic origin question.

Editing of Hispanic Origin Responses
If an individual did not provide a Hispanic origin response, their origin was allocated using specific rules of precedence of household relationship. For example, if origin was missing for a natural-born child in the household, then either the origin of the householder, another natural-born child, or spouse of the householder was allocated. If Hispanic origin was not reported for anyone in the household and origin could not be obtained from a response to the race question, then the Hispanic origin of a householder in a previously processed household with the same race was allocated. Surnames (Spanish and Non-Spanish) were used to assist in allocating an origin or race.

Question/Concept History
Beginning in 1996, the American Community Survey question was worded "Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?" In 2008, the question wording changed to Is this person of "Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?" From 1999 to 2007, the Hispanic origin question provided an instruction, "Mark (X) the No box" if not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino. The 2008 question, as well as the 1996 to 1998 questions, did not have this instruction. In addition, in 2008, the "Yes, another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish" category provided examples of six Hispanic origin groups (Argentinean, Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Spaniard, and so on).

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 Hispanic or Latino origin distributions that are different from the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the Hispanic or Latino origin distribution. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population.

The ACS question on Hispanic origin was revised in 2008 to make it consistent with the Census 2010 Hispanic origin question. The reporting of specific Hispanic groups (e.g., Colombian, Dominican, Spaniard, etc.) increased at the national level. The change in estimates for 2008 may be due to demographic changes, as well as factors including questionnaire changes, differences in ACS population controls, and methodological differences in the population estimates. Caution should be used when comparing 2008 estimates to estimates from previous years. The 2008 Hispanic origin question is different from the Census 2000 question on Hispanic origin, therefore comparisons should be made with caution. More information about the changes in the estimates is available at See the 2009 Code List for Hispanic Origin Code List.