This report looks at information on income, earnings, and poverty collected in the 2004 American Community Survey (ACS). (The text box What Is the American Community Survey? describes the survey.) The income, earnings, and poverty information from the ACS provide a measure of the country’s economic well-being. This report uses the unique ability of the ACS to produce: estimates for the United States, states, and lower levels of geography such as counties and local areas; detailed tabulations or cross-classifications; and yearly data for local areas to track changes over time.
The U.S. Census Bureau also reports on income and poverty based on the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC). The CPS ASEC asks detailed questions about income from over 50 sources. It is the official source of poverty estimates for the United States and provides detailed estimates of income, poverty, and health insurance at both the national and state level.
The Census Bureau recommends that people use the CPS ASEC as the data source for national estimates of income and poverty. While both the ACS and the CPS ASEC offer income and poverty estimates at the state level, it is important not to draw conclusions from comparisons across surveys. For example, it is inappropriate to compare a state estimate of poverty in the ACS to a different state estimate in the CPS ASEC.1
The report has three main sections: household income; the earnings of men and women—the largest component of income for most people; and poverty. The income and poverty estimates are based solely on money income received (exclusive of certain money receipts such as capital gains and lump-sum payments) before payments for personal income taxes, social security, union dues, Medicare deductions, etc. Money income does not include the value of noncash benefits such as food stamps, health benefits, subsidized housing, payments by employers for retirement programs and medical and educational expenses, and goods produced and consumed on the farm.
1 For guidance about when to use income and poverty estimates from each survey, see Guidance on Differences in Income and Poverty Estimates from Different Sources at <www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/guidance/data-sources.html>.