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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the difference between extended measures of well-being, children's well-being, and dynamics of economic well-being?
  2. Definition of well-being: What exactly are "extended measures of well-being?"
  3. Well-being scales and indexes: Is there a scale or index that can be used to summarize material well-being?
  4. The relation of well-being to food security: How does food security relate to the extended measures of well-being?
  5. The relation of well-being to poverty: How does poverty relate to the extended measures of well-being?

What is the difference between extended measures of well-being, children's well-being, and dynamics of economic well-being?  back to top

The Census Bureau reports on several types of data that are given the label "well-being." Extended measures of well-being are measures of overall conditions in a household, using measures other than income or earnings. (Although something of a misnomer, the SIPP topical module on this subject has sometimes been given the label "adult well-being" to contrast it with the topical module on children’s well-being.)

Children’s well-being focuses on how well children progress into adulthood examining factors such as measures of cognitive development, social interactions, health, and successful completion of school. For more information about children’s wellbeing see the Children's page.

Census Bureau reports on the dynamics of economic well-being examine changes over time in poverty and in participation in major means-tested government programs such as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For more information about dynamics of economic well-being, see the SIPP Poverty webpage.


Definition of well-being: What exactly are "extended measures of well-being?"  back to top

Extended measures of well-being examine living standards in a household using measures other than income and earnings. It covers five broad domains:

  1. appliances and electronic goods, such as possession of refrigerators, cellular telephones, and computers
  2. housing conditions, including level of satisfaction with overall home repair, adequate living space, and sufficient privacy
  3. neighborhood conditions and community services, such as: road conditions and the presence of abandoned buildings; satisfactory police, fire, and medical services; and attitudes towards local schools
  4. meeting basic needs, including the ability to pay bills in full, to avoid eviction, and to have sufficient food
  5. the expectation of help, should need arise, from friends, family, and the community

Data are collected in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). For a complete list of questions for this topic see the SIPP Survey Content link which can be accessed from the SIPP main page.


Well-being scales and indexes: Is there a scale or index that can be used to summarize material well-being?  back to top

Various scales have been developed by researchers. One such scale is discussed in the report, Beyond Poverty: Extended Measures of Well-Being, 1992 [PDF - 7.7K] . Extensive consideration of the possibility of constructing scales of material well-being and hardship was undertaken in the report, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Measures of Material Hardship (2004). Research on this topic by Census staff and others continues.

Two other recent publications are:

Carle, Adam C., Kurt J. Bauman, and Kathleen Short. 2009. "Assessing the Measurement and Structure of Material Hardship in the United States." Social Indicators Research. 92(1) 35-51.

Heflin, Colleen, John Sandberg and Patrick Rafail. 2009. "The Structure of Material Hardship in U.S. Households: An Examination of the Coherence behind Common Measures of Well-Being." Social Problems 56(4): 746–764.


The relation of well-being to food security: How does food security relate to the extended measures of well-being?  back to top

The Department of Agriculture collects and analyzes data on food security from a special supplement to the Current Population Survey. Because of the similarity between food security and items on "basic needs" in the SIPP topical module on extended measures of well-being, the latter includes an abbreviated version of the food security question sequence. Food security has been discussed in most Census Bureau reports on extended measures of well-being. More information is provided in user notes to data releases and from the Department of Agriculture's Food Security Briefing Room.


The relation of well-being to poverty: How does poverty relate to the extended measures of well-being?  back to top

People that are classified as being in poverty (defined as having income below the official family threshold), often do not report low levels of material well-being, and vice-versa. Several research papers have explored this difference, including a 2004 research paper by Iceland and Bauman and a 2003 paper by Short. See the section for Related Papers and Presentations on the Publications page.

Additional information about poverty and participation in government programs is available from the U.S. Census Bureau poverty web page and the U.S. Census Bureau web page on program participation, respectively.



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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Well-Being |  Last Revised: 2012-05-22T15:23:58.93-04:00