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Examining Poverty in 2016 and 2017 Using the Legacy and Updated Current Population Survey Processing System

Working Paper Number SEHSD-WP2019-28
John Creamer, Ashley Edwards, and Liana Fox

The Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS) is the official source of poverty estimates for the United States. In 2014, the Census Bureau introduced redesigned income and health insurance questions, followed by changes beginning in 2015 to allow spouses and unmarried partners to specifically identify as opposite- or same-sex. While data collection methods reflected these changes immediately, data processing changes have only recently been finalized to take advantage of this new content.

In September 2019, the Census Bureau will release income and poverty estimates in the annual report Income and Poverty in the United States: 2018 where, for the first time, income and poverty measures will reflect these methodological changes.

This paper documents poverty changes over time as measured with the legacy and updated CPS ASEC processing system for calendar years 2016 and 2017. While prior research has shown that overall poverty estimates for 2016 do not vary statistically across processing systems, this paper evaluates the 2017 data and creates a time series for data users in preparation for the release of the calendar year 2018 data. By presenting this research at the Joint Statistical Meetings, data users will understand the motivation, impact, and interpretation of these data processing changes on estimates of income and poverty in the United States.

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