Topical questions are those that are not repeated in each wave. These questions usually appear in separate topical modules that follow the core questions. Topical modules are designed to gather specific information on a wide variety of subjects. They provide a broader picture of the types of individuals who are responding to the survey and give SIPP some flexibility in collecting data on emerging issues.
In some instances, the interview flows more smoothly if topical questions are placed with core questions that relate to the same topic. For example, topical questions on asset balances are divided between items included in the core questionnaire and items included in a separate topical module. SIPP asks questions about ownership and an income amount in the core. However, questions relating to asset balances appear in the asset topical module.
Reference periods for items in topical modules vary widely, ranging from the respondent's status at the time of the interview to the respondent's experience over his or her entire life. When working with data from the SIPP topical modules, analysts should check question wording concepts carefully to ascertain the reference period. They should also check the universe for each question, because topical modules are not uniformly asked of all respondents. For example, only people 25 years of age or older are asked topical module questions about their retirement and pension accounts. Questions on shelter costs and energy usage are asked only of the reference person. In other modules, a screening question will determine who is and is not asked the remainder of the module—in the case of the Work Schedule module, for example, only those who worked during the previous month answer the entire set of questions.
The relationship between topical module titles and content is not perfectly consistent. Over the history of SIPP, there have been situations in which either the topical module content changed with no change in title or the topical module title changed with little change in content. In a few situations, content has "floated" from one topical module to another. Sometimes there has been significant overlap in content between two topical modules with different titles. The actual questions are provided with the microdata technical documentation.
To view additional SIPP documentation, see the following options below:
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