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12:30 - 13:45 9 March 2016

Trouble in the Tails: Poverty, Inequality, and the Rise in Survey Nonresponse


IFS Basement | Institute for Fiscal Studies (link Map)
7 Ridgmount Street | London | WC1E 7AE | United Kingdom

Open to: Academic | Student
Ticketing: Open

Speaker information

James P. Ziliak, University of Kentucky

Measures of U.S. poverty and inequality rely heavily on the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC). A substantial and increasing share of individuals and households surveyed in the CPS either do not participate in the ASEC supplement, or participate but fail to report earnings. Imputation procedures assume that nonresponse is missing at random, conditional on measured covariates (MAR). This research examines the patterns and consequences of nonresponse using internal Current Population Survey data linked to administrative tax records from Social Security Detailed Earnings File. Our findings confirm the conjecture by Lillard, Smith, and Welch (1986) that nonresponse across the earnings distribution is U-shaped, both unconditionally and conditional on covariates. We demonstrate that this leads to a systematic undercount of the number of poor persons, as well as an attenuation in the extent of earnings inequality.


Institute for Fiscal Studies
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