Frequently Asked Questions - PDF by mzw19339


									                                                           Frequently Asked Questions
There are statistics for aged units and the                Statistics for the family income of persons      I have seen other statistics on the income
family income of persons. What is the differ-           are also based on the demographic attributes        of the elderly that are different from these.
ence? Which statistics should I use?                    (age, sex, race, Hispanic origin) of each person.   What would cause these differences?
The wider variety of tables incorporated in             Total income from all family members (related       Statistics may differ across publications
this edition gives more options to users need-          through blood, marriage, or adoption) is treated    because different data are used. Income of the
ing information on the income of the aged.              as another attribute of the person. If any person   Population	55	or	Older	uses	the	March	Supple-
The questions asked about the income of the             in the family has income from a specific source     ment to the Current Population Survey, which is
elderly often fall into one of two categories: what     the aged person is considered to be in a recipi-    conducted	by	the	U.S.	Census	Bureau.	Some	
income do the elderly provide for themselves            ent family. These tables are designed to answer     publications producing statistics on the income
and those they live with, and what income is            questions on the resources available to an aged     of the elderly may use other surveys like the
available as a resource for the elderly.                person.                                             Survey of Income and Program Participation or
    Statistics for aged units treat each marital           The table below illustrating the differences     the Health and Retirement Survey. Still other
unit (married couple or nonmarried individual)          across units for total money income is taken        publications, such as Social Security’s Annual
as one unit. A nonmarried individual has only           from	Tables	3.A1	and	3.B1.	Median	income	           Statistical Supplement, use administrative data.
their income and demographic attributes. A              is higher for aged units than it is for persons        Different publications also may not employ
married couple’s age is defined as the age of           because aged unit income includes spousal           the same procedures for similar statistics. The
the husband—unless he is under age 55 and               income. Family income of persons 65 or older is     units (persons, aged units, families, households,
the wife is 55 or older, in which case it is the        higher still because it includes income from all    and so forth) may differ. One methodology may
age of the wife. All other demographic charac-          family members, not just a spouse. The number       exclude income or units that another does not.
teristics, including the statistical weight, are that   (thousands) is the same for persons and family
                                                        income of persons because only the attribute           The statistics below on the average amount
of the husband. Income for the married couple                                                               of money the elderly received from Social
is the sum of both spouses’ income; if either           of interest (person versus family income) has
                                                        changed; both are concerned with the same           Security illustrate these points. The first column
spouse has income from a specific source the                                                                shows the number of beneficiary aged units 65
married couple is considered to be a recipient          population—persons 65 or older. The number of
                                                        aged units is lower because a married couple is     or older and median Social Security income
unit. Tables on aged unit income are designed                                                               from	Table	5.A1.	The	second	column	shows	
to be flexible enough to answer both types of           counted	as	1	unit,	not	2	persons.
                                                                                                            the number of beneficiaries and average ben-
questions, but with a couple of qualifications.                                                             efit	from	Table	5.A16	of	the	Annual	Statistical	
First, unlike tables in which each person counts                                                  Family    Supplement, 2009. The number of beneficiaries
as a unit, aged unit tables treat each married                          Persons                income of    differs because two different sources of data
couple	as	1	unit	and	each	nonmarried	person	                          65 or older      Aged      persons    and two different units were used. The Annual
as	1	unit.	Interpreting	aged	unit	tables	like	a	                         (unpub-    units 65        65 or   Statistical Supplement statistics are based on
person table will emphasize the economic well-                            lished)   or older        older
                                                                                                            administrative records from Social Security’s
being of nonmarried persons relative to married         Median	                                             Master	Beneficiary	Record	drawn	for	Decem-
persons. Second, the aged unit tables exclude           income                                              ber 2008. The administrative records include
the income of other family members, which may           (dollars)         17,657      24,857      34,568
                                                                                                            institutionalized beneficiaries (for example, in
not provide a complete picture of the resources         Number                                              nursing homes and hospitals) and do not rely
available to the unit.                                  (thousands)       37,788      28,921      37,788    on accurate self-reporting by the beneficiary to
                                                                                                            a survey. The benefit amounts differ not only

	                                                                                                                Income	of	the	Population	55	or	Older,	2008	•	13
because the data are different, but also because      receiving disability benefits). For this reason,        definition of total money income. Two notable
the Income of the Population statistic is the         it also should not be assumed that beneficiary          exclusions are withdrawals from defined con-
median of the annual amount received and the          units 65 or older or persons 65 or older in bene-       tribution pension accounts and capital gains or
Annual Statistical Supplement statistic is the        ficiary families are receiving retirement benefits,     losses.	Only	“regular	payments”	from	retirement,	
mean of the monthly benefit in December 2008.         even though disability benefits are converted to        survivor, and disability income are included as
                                                      retired-worker benefits at full retirement age.         pension	income.	Many	people	do	not	choose	
                     Income of the
                                                      Why don’t you differentiate between income              to annuitize their pension accounts and instead
                        Population     Supplement
                                                      from defined benefit (DB) pensions and                  receive lump sums or make withdrawals from
                        Table 5.A1      Table 5.A16
                                                      income from defined contribution (DC) plans             their pension accounts on their own. These
Beneficiary	aged	
                                                      like IRAs and 401(k) accounts?                          withdrawals are not included as part of pension
units 65 or older
                                                                                                              or total money income. Using receipt of income
(thousands)             25,210             ...        We do not publish statistics differentiating            from assets or pensions will underestimate
Beneficiaries	                                        between	DB	and	DC	pensions	because	a	sig-               asset or pension holdings.
65 or older                                           nificant portion of payments from DC plans are
(thousands)               ...            35,745       not collected in the Current Population Survey.         What is the difference between the relative
Median	Social	                                        The	Census	Bureau	only	includes	“regular	pay-           importance of an income source in Sections
Security income                                       ments” from retirement, survivor, and disability        8 and 9 and a source’s share of aggregate
(dollars)               14,966             ...        income in its definition of total money income.         income in Section 10?
Average monthly                                       Many	people	do	not	choose	to	annuitize	their	           The most important difference between the two
benefit                   ...           1,124.40      pension accounts and instead make withdrawals           concepts is that the relative importance of an
Average                                               from their pension accounts on their own. These         income source is based on aged units/family
monthly benefit                                       withdrawals are not part of total money income,         income of persons, while a share of aggregate
(annualized)              ...          13,492.80      and data are not collected on withdrawals from          income is an average over dollars. This means
                                                      pension	accounts	in	the	March	Supplement	to	            that the relative importance of Social Security for
Why are there only 4 quintile limits?                 the Current Population Survey.1                         an aged unit is calculated by dividing each aged
                                                      Do the statistics on receipt of asset income            unit’s Social Security income by its total income.
The quintile limits indicate the boundaries
                                                      and the receipt of pension income in Sec-               Based	on	the	ratio	of	Social	Security	income	to	
between the quintiles. The bottom quintile has
                                                      tion 2 indicate whether an elderly person has           total income, aged units are then placed in the
income below the lowest quintile limit with no
                                                      assets or a pension account?                            appropriate row of the table (0 percent of income
lower boundary. Likewise, the top quintile has
                                                                                                              from	Social	Security,	1	percent	to	19	percent	
income of at least the highest quintile limit with    No.	The	March	Supplement	of	the	Current	                of income from Social Security, and so forth).
no upper boundary. The middle quintiles are           Population Survey does not ask about asset and          Only aged units with positive total income and
bounded on the top and bottom by the quintile         pension holdings, and not all asset and pen-            nonnegative earnings and asset income are
limits.                                               sion	income	is	included	in	the	Census	Bureau’s	         included. The mean at the bottom of each panel
Why isn’t Social Security differentiated by                                                                   is an average of the ratio of Social Security
type of benefit?                                         1
                                                          	A	paper	by	Marc	Roemer	assessing	the	quality	of	   income to total income. The measures of relative
Social Security is not broken out by type of          income	data	in	the	March	Current	Population	Survey	     importance of income sources in Sections 8 and
benefit because a person may receive more             and Survey of Income and Program Participation          9 are designed to examine the resources avail-
than one type of Social Security benefit (such        provides further insight into what pensions are and     able to an elderly person or aged unit.
                                                      are	not	counted	as	money	income.	See	“Assessing	
as retired-worker benefit and spouse benefit).                                                                   On the other hand, aggregate income shares
                                                      the	Quality	of	the	March	Current	Population	Survey	
Aged units and families may have even more            and the Survey of Income and Program Participa-         are designed to answer the question of what
combinations of benefits (such as one spouse          tion	Income	Estimates,	1990–1996,”	unpublished,	        income sources the elderly as a whole are
receiving retired-worker benefits and the other       but available at        providing to their living units. Income provided

14	•	Income	of	the	Population	55	or	Older,	2008
by the nonelderly is excluded (except in the          (“100	percent	reliance”)	are	particularly	affected	   all of their income from Social Security; how-
case of aged units because spouses may be             by underreports of receipt of income from other       ever, only 8.4 percent of elderly aged units in the
nonelderly). The Social Security share of aggre-      sources	because	the	receipt	of	just	$1	from	a	        SIPP reported receiving all of their income from
gate income for persons 65 or older is the total      second income source changes whether an               Social Security.
number of dollars of Social Security received         aged unit receives all of their income from a            For further information on the reporting of
by persons 65 or older divided by the total           single source. The table below from Fisher            income in surveys and its effect on statistics,
number of dollars received by the elderly from        (2007)	illustrates	the	differences	in	receipt	of	     please	consult	articles	by	Fisher	(2007),	Koenig	
all sources of income. Only the total number of       income by source between the CPS and the              (2003),	or	Roemer	(2000).2
dollars matters for aggregate income shares;          SIPP. These differences in receipt, particularly
neither the number of persons or aged units nor       of asset income and pension income, can cause         I can’t find the information I need. What are
the distribution of money is taken into account.      the estimated relative importance of Social           some other sources of data?

Do statistics on the relative importance              Security	to	vary	greatly.	In	1996,	17.9	percent	of	   A good source of data on Social Security ben-
of income sources accurately reflect the              elderly aged units in the CPS reported receiving      efits and Supplemental Security Income is in
resources available to the elderly?                                                                         Social Security Administration’s Annual Statisti-
                                                      Percentage of aged units 65 or older with             cal Supplement. It and other data publications
Not in all instances. First, the survey on which                                                            from Social Security are located on Social
these data are based does not include some            income from specified source, 1996
                                                                                                            Security Administration Office of Retirement and
potentially important resources as income,            Number of aged units                                  Disability Policy’s data Web site, http://www
including lump-sum pension payments and               (thousands)                           CPS     SIPP
capital gains. In addition, these statistics do not         Total                       24,553     25,671
take into consideration noncash benefits that                                                                  The	Census	Bureau	also	has	a	series	of	pub-
                                                      Percentage of aged units reporting—                   lications based on the Current Population Sur-
supplement money income (housing and energy
subsidies or food stamps) or the amount of sav-       Earnings                              20.7     21.4   vey, the most recent of which is called Income,
ings available to supplement monthly income.          Retirement benefits                   93.1     96.1   Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the
This could overstate the relative importance of                                                             United States: 2008. Several years of these
                                                      Social Security                       90.6     94.2
earnings or Social Security and understate the                                                              reports can be accessed through the Census
                                                      Pensions                              41.2     55.7
relative importance of pensions and assets as                                                               Bureau’s	Income	Web	site,	http://www.census
                                                      Public                                13.6     20.3   .gov/hhes/www/income/income.html. The
                                                      Private                               29.9     42.9   Internal Revenue Service’s Statistics of Income
   Second, comparisons of the survey data
                                                      Asset income                          63.0     73.5
used in this publication, the Current Popula-
                                                      Interest                              60.9     71.5      2
                                                                                                                	Fisher,	T.	Lynn.	2007.	Social	Security	research:	A	
tion Survey (CPS), with other surveys indicate
                                                      Not interest                          24.7     32.0   quartet of articles measuring the economic well-being
that certain sources of income are increas-
                                                                                                            of the elderly. Social Security Bulletin	67(2):	41–72.
ingly underreported, particularly asset income        Public assistance                      5.9      9.7
and pension income. One survey designed to                                                                     Koenig,	Melissa.	2003.	An	assessment	of	the	Cur-
                                                      SSI                                    5.6      7.9   rent Population Survey and the Survey of Income and
capture small and/or infrequent amounts of            Other public assistance                0.4      2.5   Program Participation using Social Security adminis-
income is the Survey of Income and Program                                                                  trative data. Paper presented at the Federal Commit-
                                                      Veterans’ benefits                     4.6      5.9
Participation (SIPP). Researchers at the Census                                                             tee	on	Statistical	Methodology	Research	Conference,	
Bureau	and	SSA	have	used	these	surveys	to	            Unemployment compensation              0.8      0.8
                                                                                                            Washington, DC.
estimate how misreported income leads to over-        Workers’ compensation                  0.6      1.0
                                                                                                               Roemer,	Marc.	2000.	Assessing	the	quality	of	the	
or underestimation of total income, poverty,                                                                March	Current	Population	Survey	and	the	Survey	of	
                                                      SOURCE:	Fisher,	T.	Lynn.	2007.	The	impact	of	
and the relative importance of income sources.        survey choice on measuring the relative importance    Income and Program Participation income estimates,
Estimates of the proportions of the elderly           of Social Security benefits to the elderly. Social    1990–1996.
receiving all of their income from a single source    Security Bulletin	67(2):	55–64,	Table	2.	             income/assess1.pdf.

	                                                                                                                 Income	of	the	Population	55	or	Older,	2008	•	15
Division produces data on income that is acces-      I can’t find the answer to my question. Whom
sible through its Tax Statistics Web site, http://   do I contact?                               If you have questions about how the statis-
   Data on a variety of topics, including income,    tics in this publication were calculated, please
wealth, and consumption can be found in the          e-mail If you would
Statistical Abstract of the United States through    like to request a copy of this publication, e-mail
the Census Bureau at http://www.census.     If you have questions
gov/compendia/statab/. The Bureau of Labor           regarding the Current Population Survey, please
Statistics produces a series of reports on           visit the Census Bureau’s CPS Web site http://
consumption from its Consumer Expenditure   The technical documen-
Survey. These reports and other data on con-         tation for the March 2009 Supplement is located
sumption can be found at         at
cex/. Data on wealth are included in the Sur-        cpsmar09.pdf. If you have questions regarding
vey of Consumer Finances (Federal Reserve            your personal Social Security records, including
Board,       benefits and earnings history, please call
oss2/scfindex.html), the Panel Study of Income       1-800-772-1213, visit http://www.socialsecurity
Dynamics (University of Michigan, http://www         .gov/onlineservices/ or contact your local Social, and through the         Security field office.
Census Bureau’s Housing and Household
Economic Statistics Division (http://www
Data on health, retirement, and aging are
available in the Health and Retirement Study
sponsored by the National Institute on Aging
(University of Michigan, http://hrsonline.isr

16 • Income of the Population 55 or Older, 2008

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