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National Experimental Wellbeing Statistics, Liana Fox (United States Census Bureau)

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E2_Experts-Group_Fox_USA_PAPER.pdf (application/pdf, 5.26 MB)

This is the U.S. Census Bureau’s first release of the National Experimental Wellbeing Statistics (NEWS) project. The NEWS project aims to produce the best possible estimates of income and poverty given all available survey and administrative data. We link survey, decennial census, administrative, and commercial data to address measurement error in income and poverty statistics. We estimate improved (pre-tax money) income and poverty statistics for 2018 by addressing several possible sources of bias documented in prior research. We address biases from (1) unit nonresponse through improved weights, (2) missing income information in both survey and administrative data through improved imputation, and (3) misreporting by combining or replacing survey responses with administrative information. Reducing survey error substantially affects key measures of wellbeing: We estimate median household income is 6.3 percent higher than in the survey estimate, and poverty is 1.1 percentage points lower. These changes are driven by subpopulations for which survey error is particularly relevant. For householders aged 65 and over, median household income is 27.3 percent higher than in the survey estimate and for people aged 65 and over, poverty is 3.3 percentage points lower than the survey estimate. We do not find a significant impact on median household income for householders under 65 or on child poverty. Finally, we discuss plans for future releases: addressing other potential sources of bias, releasing additional years of statistics, extending the income concepts measured, and including smaller geographies such as state and county.