Data Dictionary: ACS 2009 -- 2011 (3-Year Estimates)
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Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Table: C21007. Age By Veteran Status By Poverty Status In The Past 12 Months By Disability Status For The Civilian Population 18 Years And Over [31]
Universe: Universe: Civilian population 18 years and over for whom poverty status is determined
Table Details
C21007. Age By Veteran Status By Poverty Status In The Past 12 Months By Disability Status For The Civilian Population 18 Years And Over
Universe: Universe: Civilian population 18 years and over for whom poverty status is determined
Relevant Documentation:
Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2009-2011 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Age
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 persons in a household or group quarters. On the mailout/mailback paper questionnaire for households, both age and date of birth are asked for persons listed as person numbers 1-5 on the form. Only age (in years) is initially asked for persons listed as 612 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 persons. In 2006, the ACS began collecting data in group quarters (GQs). This included asking both age and date of birth for persons living in a group quarters. For additional data collection methodology, please see www.census.gov/acs.

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 www.census.gov/acs.

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.

Comparability
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 2011). 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 46 to 64 in the 2011 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 www.census.gov/acs.

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 the official estimates of the population for the nation, states, counties, cities and towns, and estimates of housing units for states and counties.

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2009-2011 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Veteran Status
Veterans are men and women who have served (even for a short time), but are not currently serving, on active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or the Coast Guard, or who served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II. People who served in the National Guard or Reserves are classified as veterans only if they were ever called or ordered to active duty, not counting the 4-6 months for initial training or yearly summer camps. All other civilians are classified as nonveterans.

While it is possible for 17 year olds to be veterans of the Armed Forces, ACS data products are restricted to the population 18 years and older.

Answers to this question provide specific information about veterans. Veteran status is used to identify people with active duty military service and service in the military Reserves and the National Guard. ACS data define civilian veteran as a person 18 years old and over who served (even for a short time), but is not now serving on acting duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard, or who served as a Merchant Marine seaman during World War II. Individuals who have training for Reserves or National Guard but no active duty service are not considered veterans in the ACS. These data are used primarily by the Department of Veterans Affairs to measure the needs of veterans.

Other uses include:

  • Used at state and county levels to plan programs for medical and nursing home care for veterans.
  • Used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to plan the locations and sizes of veterans' cemeteries.
  • Used by local agencies, under the Older Americans Act, to develop health care and other services for elderly veterans.
Used to allocate funds to states and local areas for employment and job training programs for veterans under the Job Training Partnership Act.

Question/Concept History
For the 1999-2002 American Community Survey, the question was changed to match the Census 2000 item. The response categories were modified by expanding the "No active duty service" answer category to distinguish persons whose only military service was for training in the Reserves or National Guard, from persons with no military experience whatsoever.

Beginning in 2003, the "Yes, on active duty in the past, but not now" category was split into two categories. Veterans are now asked whether or not their service ended in the last 12 months.

Limitation of the Data
There may be a tendency for the following kinds of persons to report erroneously that they served on active duty in the Armed Forces: (a) persons who served in the National Guard or Military Reserves but were never called to duty; (b) civilian employees or volunteers for the USO, Red Cross, or the Department of Defense (or its predecessors, the Department of War and the Department of the Navy); and (c) employees of the Merchant Marine or Public Health Service.

Beginning in 2006, the population in group quarters (GQ) was included in the ACS. Some types of GQ populations may have period of military service and veteran status distributions that are different from the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the period of service and veteran status distributions. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population.

Comparability
The ACS has two separate questions for veteran status and period of military service, whereas in Census 2000, it was a two-part question. The wording for the veteran status question remains the same, however, the response categories have changed over time (see the section "Question/Concept History").

The Group Quarters (GQ) population was included in the 2006 ACS and not included in prior years of ACS data, thus comparisons should be made only if the geographic area of interest does not include a substantial GQ population.

For comparisons to the Current Population Survey (CPS), please see "Comparison of ACS and ASEC Data on Veteran Status and Period of Military Service: 2007."

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2009-2011 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 family's 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 in Appendix A titled "Poverty Thresholds in 1982, by Size of Family and Number of RelatedChildren Under 18 Years (Dollars)," for appropriate base thresholds. See the table "The 2011 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 2011 and reporting a total family income of $14,000 for the last 12 months (July 2010 to June 2011). The base year (1982) threshold for such a family is $7,765, while the average of the 12 inflation factors is 2.24574 Multiplying $7,765 by 2.24574 determines the appropriate poverty threshold for this family type, which is $17,438 Comparing the family's 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 family's income.

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
Specified poverty levels are adjusted thresholds that are obtained by multiplying the official thresholds by specific factor. Using the threshold cited from the previous example (a family of three with one related child under 18 years responding in July 2011), the dollar value at 125 percent of the poverty threshold was $ 21,798 ($ 17,438x 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 aggregate 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.")
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 USDA's 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
(http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/datasources/description.html) for more details.

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2009-2011 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Disability Status
Under the conceptual framework of disability described by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF), disability is defined as the product of interactions among individuals' bodies; their physical, emotional, and mental health; and the physical and social environment in which they live, work, or play. Disability exists where this interaction results in limitations of activities and restrictions to full participation at school, at work, at home, or in the community. For example, disability may exist where a person is limited in their ability to work due to job discrimination against persons with specific health conditions; or, disability may exist where a child has difficulty learning because the school cannot accommodate the child's deafness.

Furthermore, disability is a dynamic concept that changes over time as one's health improves or declines, as technology advances, and as social structures adapt. As such, disability is a continuum in which the degree of difficulty may also increase or decrease. Because disability exists along a continuum, various cut-offs are used to allow for a simpler understanding of the concept, the most common of which is the dichotomous "With a disability"/"no disability" differential.

Measuring this complex concept of disability with a short set of six questions is difficult. Because of the multitude of possible functional limitations that may present as disabilities, and in the absence of information on external factors that influence disability, surveys like the ACS are limited to capturing difficulty with only selected activities. As such, people identified by the ACS as having a disability are, in fact, those who exhibit difficulty with specific functions and may, in the absence of accommodation, have a disability. While this definition is different from the one described by the IOM and ICF conceptual frameworks, it relates to the programmatic definitions used in most Federal and state legislation.

In an attempt to capture a variety of characteristics that encompass the definition of disability, the ACS identifies serious difficulty with four basic areas of functioning - hearing, vision, cognition, and ambulation. These functional limitations are supplemented by questions about difficulties with selected activities from the Katz Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and Lawton Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) scales, namely difficulty bathing and dressing, and difficulty performing errands such as shopping. Overall, the ACS attempts to capture six aspects of disability, which can be used together to create an overall disability measure, or independently to identify populations with specific disability types.

Information on disability is used by a number of federal agencies to distribute funds and develop programs for people with disabilities. For example, data about the size, distribution, and needs of the disabled population are essential for developing disability employment policy. For the Americans with Disabilities Act, data about functional limitations are important to ensure that comparable public transportation services are available for all segments of the population. Federal grants are awarded, under the Older Americans Act, based on the number of elderly people with physical and mental disabilities.

Question/Concept History
In the 2011 American Community Survey, disability concepts were asked in questions 17 through 19. Question 17 had two subparts and was asked of all persons regardless of age. Question 18 had three subparts and was asked of people age 5 years and older. Question 19 was asked of people age 15 years and older.

Hearing difficulty
Hearing difficulty was derived from question 17a, which asked respondents if they were "deaf or ... [had] serious difficulty hearing."

Vision difficulty
Vision difficulty was derived from question 17b, which asked respondents if they were "blind or ... [had] serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses." Prior to the 2008 ACS, hearing and vision difficulty were asked in a single question under the label "Sensory disability."

Cognitive difficulty
Cognitive difficulty was derived from question 18a, which asked respondents if due to physical, mental, or emotional condition, they had "serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions." Prior to the 2008 ACS, the question on cognitive functioning asked about difficulty "learning, remembering, or concentrating" under the label "Mental disability."

Ambulatory difficulty
Ambulatory difficulty was derived from question 18b, which asked respondents if they had "serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs." Prior to 2008, the ACS asked if respondents had "a condition that substantially limits one or more basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, reaching, lifting, or carrying." This measure was labeled "Physical difficulty" in ACS data products.

Self-care difficulty
Self-care difficulty was derived from question 18c, which asked respondents if they had "difficulty dressing or bathing." Difficulty with these activities are two of six specific Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) often used by health care providers to assess patients' self- care needs. Prior to the 2008 ACS, the question on self-care limitations asked about difficulty "dressing, bathing, or getting around inside the home," under the label "Self-care disability."

Independent living difficulty
Independent living difficulty was derived from question 19, which asked respondents if due to a physical, mental, or emotional condition, they had difficulty "doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor's office or shopping." Difficulty with this activity is one of several Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) used by health care providers in making care decisions. Prior to the 2008 ACS, a similar measure on difficulty "going outside the home alone to shop or visit a doctor's office" was asked under the label "Go-outside-home disability."

Disability status
Disability status is determined from the answers from these six types of difficulty. For children under 5 years old, hearing and vision difficulty are used to determine disability status. For children between the ages of 5 and 14, disability status is determined from hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, and self-care difficulties. For people aged 15 years and older, they are considered to have a disability if they have difficulty with any one of the six difficulty types.

Limitation of the Data
The universe for most disability data tabulations is the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Some types of GQ populations have disability distributions that are different from the household population. The inclusion of the noninstitutionalized GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the disability distribution. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial noninstitutionalized GQ population. For a discussion of the effect of group quarters data has on estimates of disability status, see "Disability Status and the Characteristics of People in Group Quarters: A Brief Analysis of Disability Prevalence among the Civilian Noninstitutionalized and Total Populations in the American Community Survey" (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/disability/GQdisability.pdf).

Comparability
Beginning in 2008, questions on disability represent a conceptual and empirical break from earlier years of the ACS. Hence, the Census Bureau does not recommend any comparisons of 2011 disability data to 2007 and earlier ACS disability data.

Research suggests that combining the new separate measures of hearing and vision difficulty to generate a sensory difficulty measure does not create a comparable estimate to the old Sensory disability estimates in prior ACS products. Likewise, the cognitive difficulty, ambulatory difficulty, self-care difficulty, and independent living difficulty measures are based on different sets of activities and different question wordings from similar measures in ACS questionnaires prior to 2008 and thus should not be compared. Because the overall measure of disability status beginning in 2008 is based on different measures of difficulty, these estimates should also not be compared to prior years. For additional information on the differences between the ACS disability questions beginning in 2008 and prior ACS disability questions, see "Review of Changes to the Measurement of Disability in the 2008 American Community Survey" ((http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/disability/2008ACS_disability.pdf).

The 2011 disability estimates should also not be compared with disability estimates from Census 2000 for reasons similar to the ones made above. ACS disability estimates should also not be compared with more detailed measures of disability from sources such as the National Health Interview Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation.
The 2011 ACS disability estimates are comparable with the ACS disability estimates from 2008,2009, and 2010.