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Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States: 2011

Report Number P70-136
Julie Siebens


Although money can provide access to a variety of goods and services common to modern life, financial resources alone cannot provide an overall picture of well-being. That is why the U.S. Census Bureau uses the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to collect information on a variety of other measures, creating a broad picture of well-being.1 Since 1992, SIPP has been asking householders questions from five broad “domains” of well-being: (1) appliances and electronic goods, such as possession of refrigerators, landline and 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; and (5) the expectation of help, should need arise, from friends, family, and the community.

This report continues the examination of well-being, using data from the Adult Well-Being topical module administered periodically throughout the SIPP panels. Although most of this report uses data collected in 2011, comparisons across years use data going back to 1992. SIPP collects information on material well-being only from the householder reference person. The “householder” refers to the person who owns or rents the home.

Summary Measures of Well-Being

Extended measures of well-being include a variety of indicators of how households fare. Table 1 provides summary measures of each of the five broad domains of well-being in 2011.2 Among all householders, just 64 percent had all six of the following appliances and electronic goods: clothes washer, clothes dryer, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, and a landline or cellular phone.3 Nearly 85 percent reported having no problems with housing repairs.4 Many fewer households (72 percent) had no neighborhood problems with street conditions, traffic, trash or litter, abandoned buildings, industries or businesses, or smoke or odors. Just under 9 in 10 householders were able to meet all but one or fewer of their basic needs. Regardless of whether or not householders had difficulty with meeting these needs, 86 percent of them expected to obtain help from friends, family, or community agencies if the need arose.

1 Similar reports using previous SIPP data on well-being can be found at <>.

2 Detailed tables of extended well-being measures can be found at <>.

3 Throughout this report, “landline” refers to a landline telephone, and “cell phone” refers to cellular or mobile telephones.

4 “No problems with housing repair” is defined as not reporting a problem with pests, leaky roofs, broken windows, exposed wires, plumbing problems, cracks in the walls, or holes in the floor.


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