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Data Dictionary: ACS 2009 (1-Year Estimates)
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Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Table: B21004. Median Income in the Past 12 Months (In 2009 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars) By Veteran Status By Sex For the Civilian Population 18 Years and Over with Income [7]
Universe: Civilian population 18 years and Over with income in the past 12 months
Relevant Documentation:
Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2009 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
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. (For more information on medians and interpolation, see "Derived Measures".)

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2009 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
Income in the Past 12 Months
The data on income were derived from answers to Questions 47 and 48, 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 is a vital measure of general economic circumstances. Income data are used to determine poverty status, to measure economic well-being, and to assess the need for assistance. These data are included in federal allocation formulas for many government programs. For instance:

Social Services: Under the Older Americans Act, funds for food, health care, and legal services are distributed to local agencies based on data about elderly people with low incomes. Data about income at the state and county levels are used to allocate funds for food, health care, and classes in meal planning to low-income women with children.

Employment: Income data are used to identify local areas eligible for grants to stimulate economic recovery, run job-training programs, and define areas such as empowerment or enterprise zones.

Housing: Under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, income data are used to allocate funds to areas for home energy aid. Under the Community Development Block Grant Program, funding for housing assistance and other community development is based on income and other census data.

Education: Data about poor children are used to allocate funds to counties and school districts. These funds provide resources and services to improve the education of economically disadvantaged children.

In household surveys, respondents tend to underreport income. Asking the list of specific sources of income helps respondents remember all income amounts that have been received, and asking total income increases the overall response rate and thus, the accuracy of the answers to the income questions. The eight specific sources of income also provide needed detail about items such as earnings, retirement income, and public assistance.

Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2009 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
Veteran Status
Data on veteran status and period of military service were derived from answers to Questions 26 and 27.

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.

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."