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Data Dictionary: Census 1990
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Survey: Census 1990
Data Source: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau
Table: T94. Poverty Status In 1989 For Population Under 18 [3]
Universe: Persons Under 18 for whom poverty status is determined
Table Details
T94. Poverty Status In 1989 For Population Under 18
Universe: Persons Under 18 for whom poverty status is determined
Relevant Documentation:
Excerpt from: Social Explorer, U.S. Census Bureau; Census of Population and Housing, 1990: Summary Tape File 3 on CD-ROM [machine-readable data files] / prepared by the Bureau of the Census. Washington: The Bureau [producer and distributor], 1991.
Poverty Status in 1989
The data on poverty status were derived from answers to the same questions as the income data, questionnaire items 32 and 33. (For more information, see the discussion under "Income in 1989.") Poverty statistics presented in census publications were based on a definition originated by the Social Security Administration in 1964 and subsequently modified by Federal interagency committees in 1969 and 1980 and prescribed by the Office of Management and Budget in Directive 14 as the standard to be used by Federal agencies for statistical purposes.

At the core of this definition was the 1961 economy food plan, the least costly of four nutritionally adequate food plans designed by the Department of Agriculture. It was determined from the Agriculture Department's 1955 survey of food consumption that families of three or more persons spend approximately one-third of their income on food; hence, the poverty level for these families was set at three times the cost of the economy food plan. For smaller families and persons living alone, the cost of the economy food plan was multiplied by factors that were slightly higher to compensate for the relatively larger fixed expenses for these smaller households.

The income cutoffs used by the Census Bureau to determine the poverty status of families and unrelated individuals included a set of 48 thresholds arranged in a two-dimensional matrix consisting of family size (from one person to nine or more persons) 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 were further differentiated by age of the householder (under 65 years old and 65 years old and over).

The total income of each family or unrelated individual in the sample was tested against the appropriate poverty threshold to determine the poverty status of that family or unrelated individual. If the total income was less than the corresponding cutoff, the family or unrelated individual was classified as "below the poverty level." The number of persons below the poverty level was the sum of the number of persons in families with incomes below the poverty level and the number of unrelated individuals with incomes below the poverty level.

The poverty thresholds are revised annually to allow for changes in the cost of living as reflected in the Consumer Price Index. The average poverty threshold for a family of four persons was $12,674 in 1989. (For more information, see table A below.) Poverty thresholds were applied on a national basis and were not adjusted for regional, State or local variations in the cost of living. For a detailed discussion of the poverty definition, see U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-60, No. 171, Poverty in the United States: 1988 and 1989.

Table A Poverty Thresholds in 1989 by Size of Family and Number of Related Children Under 18 Years
  Related children under 18 years
Size of Family Unit Weight average thresholds None One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight or more
One person (unrelated individual) $6,310                  
Under 65 years 6,451 $6,451                
65 years and over 5,947 5,947                
Two persons 8,076                  
Householder under 65 years 8,343 8,303 $8,547              
Householder 65 years and                    
over 7,501 7,495 8,515              
Three persons 9,885 9,699 9,981 $9,990            
Four persons 12,674 12,790 12,999 12,575 $12,619          
Five persons 14,990 15,424 15,648 15,169 14,798 $14,572        
Six persons 16,921 17,740 17,811 17,444 17,092 16,569 $16,259      
Seven persons 19,162 20,412 20,540 20,101 19,794 19,224 18,558 $17,828    
Fight persons 21,328 22,830 23,031 22,617 22,253 21,738 21,084 20,403 $20,230  
Nine or more persons 25,480 27,463 27,596 27,229 26,921 26,415 25,719 25,089 24,933 $23,973

Persons for Whom Poverty Status is Determined
Poverty status was determined for all persons except institutionalized persons, persons in military group quarters and in college dormitories, and unrelated individuals under 15 years old. These groups also were excluded from the denominator when calculating poverty rates.

Specified Poverty Levels
Since the poverty levels currently in use by the Federal Government do not meet all the needs of data users, some of the data are presented for alternate levels. These specified poverty levels are obtained by multiplying the income cutoffs at the poverty level by the appropriate factor. For example, the average income cutoff at 125 percent of poverty level was $15,843 ($12,674 x 1.25) in 1989 for a family of four persons.

Weighted Average Thresholds at the Poverty Level
The average thresholds shown in the first column of table A are weighted by the presence and number of children. For example, the weighted average threshold for a given family size is obtained by multiplying the threshold for each presence and number of children category within the given family size by the number of families in that category. These products are then aggregated across the entire range of presence and number of children categories, and the aggregate is divided by the total number of families in the group to yield the weighted average threshold at the poverty level for that family size.

Since the basic thresholds used to determine the poverty status of families and unrelated individuals are applied to all families and unrelated individuals, the weighted average poverty thresholds are derived using all families and unrelated individuals rather than just those classified as being below the poverty level. To obtain the weighted poverty thresholds for families and unrelated individuals below alternate poverty levels, the weighted thresholds shown in table A may be multiplied directly by the appropriate factor. The weighted average thresholds presented in the table are based on the March 1990 Current Population Survey. However, these thresholds would not differ significantly from those based on the 1990 census.

Income Deficit
Represents the difference between the total income 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 provided 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 impoverishment of a family or unrelated individual. However, caution must be used in 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.

Mean Income Deficit
Represents the amount obtained by dividing the total income deficit of a group below the poverty level by the number of families (or unrelated individuals) in that group.

The poverty definition used in the 1990 and 1980 censuses differed slightly from the one used in the 1970 census. Three technical modifications were made to the definition used in the 1970 census as described below:
  1. The separate thresholds for families with a female householder with no husband present and all other families were eliminated. For the 1980 and 1990 censuses, the weighted average of the poverty thresholds for these two types of families was applied to all types of families, regardless of the sex of the householder.
  2. Farm families and farm unrelated individuals no longer had a set of poverty thresholds that were lower than the thresholds applied to nonfarm families and unrelated individuals. The farm thresholds were 85 percent of the corresponding levels for nonfarm families in the 1970 census. The same thresholds were applied to all families and unrelated individuals regardless of residence in 1980 and 1990.
  3. The thresholds by size of family were extended from seven or more persons in 1970 to nine or more persons in 1980 and 1990.
These changes resulted in a minimal increase in the number of poor at the national level. For a complete discussion of these modifications and their impact, see the Current Population Reports, Series P-60, No. 133.

The population covered in the poverty statistics derived from the 1980 and 1990 censuses was essentially the same as in the 1970 census. The only difference was that in 1980 and 1990, unrelated individuals under 15 years old were excluded from the poverty universe, while in 1970, only those under 14 years old were excluded. The poverty data from the 1960 census excluded all persons in group quarters and included all unrelated individuals regardless of age. It was unlikely that these differences in population coverage would have had significant impact when comparing the poverty data for persons since the 1960 censuses.

Current Population Survey
Because of differences in the questionnaires and data collection procedures, estimates of the number of persons below the poverty level by various characteristics from the 1990 census may differ from those reported in the March 1990 Current Population Survey.

Excerpt from: Social Explorer, U.S. Census Bureau; Census of Population and Housing, 1990: Summary Tape File 3 on CD-ROM [machine-readable data files] / prepared by the Bureau of the Census. Washington: The Bureau [producer and distributor], 1991.
The data on age were derived from answers to questionnaire item 5, which was asked of all persons. The age classification is based on the age of the person in complete years as of April 1, 1990. The age response in question 5a was used normally to represent a person's age. However, when the age response was unacceptable or unavailable, a person's age was derived from an acceptable year-of-birth response in question 5b.

Data on age are used to determine the applicability of other questions for a person and to classify other characteristics in census tabulations. Age data are needed to interpret most social and economic characteristics used to plan and examine many programs and policies. Therefore, age is tabulated by single years of age and by many different groupings, such as 5-year age groups.

Some tabulations are shown by the age of the householder. These data were derived from the age responses for each householder. (For more information on householder, see the discussion under "Household Type and Relationship.")

Median Age
This measure divides the age distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median value and one-half above the value. Generally, median age is computed on the basis of more detailed age intervals than are shown in some census publications; thus, a median based on a less detailed distribution may differ slightly from a corresponding median for the same population based on a more detailed distribution. (For more information on medians, see the discussion under "Derived Measures.")

Limitation of the Data
Counts in 1970 and 1980 for persons 100 years old and over were substantially overstated. Improvements were made in the questionnaire design, in the allocation procedures, and to the respondent instruction guide to attempt to minimize this problem for the 1990 census.

Review of detailed 1990 census information indicated that respondents tended to provide their age as of the date of completion of the questionnaire, not their age as of April 1, 1990. In addition, there may have been a tendency for respondents to round their age up if they were close to having a birthday. It is likely that approximately 10 percent of persons in most age groups are actually 1 year younger. For most single years of age, the misstatements are largely offsetting. The problem is most pronounced at age 0 because persons lost to age 1 may not have been fully offset by the inclusion of babies born after April 1, 1990, and because there may have been more rounding up to age 1 to avoid reporting age as 0 years. (Age in complete months was not collected for infants under age 1.)

The reporting of age 1 year older than age on April 1, 1990, is likely to have been greater in areas where the census data were collected later in 1990. The magnitude of this problem was much less in the three previous censuses where age was typically derived from respondent data on year of birth and quarter of birth. (For more information on the design of the age question, see the section below that discusses "Comparability.")

Age data have been collected in every census. For the first time since 1950, the 1990 data are not available by quarter year of age. This change was made so that coded information could be obtained for both age and year of birth. In each census since 1940, the age of a person was assigned when it was not reported. In censuses before 1940, with the exception of 1880, persons of unknown age were shown as a separate category. Since 1960, assignment of unknown age has been performed by a general procedure described as "imputation." The specific procedures for imputing age have been different in each census. (For more information on imputation, see Appendix C, Accuracy of the Data.)