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SIPP Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the Census Bureau collect this information?

Although we conduct a census every ten years, some information needs to be updated more often. This survey provides current data about a variety of important issues, such as changes people have experienced in their jobs, health insurance coverage, medical expenditures, the well-being of children and adults, childcare and child support status, retirement and pension planning, participation in government programs, and other information. Since the country changes rapidly, up-to-date facts are necessary in order to create effective programs. Policymakers in government and private organizations need current economic information to make informed decisions about programs that will affect people of all income levels. Your voluntary participation is essential to ensure that this survey’s results are complete and accurate.

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How do I know the Census Bureau will protect my information?

The law authorizes the Census Bureau to collect information for this survey (Title 13, United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 182). Section 9 of this law requires us to keep all information about you and your household strictly confidential. The Census Bureau will use this information only for statistical purposes. Everyone who has access to your responses is subject to a prison term, a fine up to $250,000, or both, if any information is revealed that identifies you or your household.

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How will the Census Bureau use the information that I provide?

Because Title 13 guarantees the confidentiality of your information, the Census Bureau will combine the information you provide with that of others to produce statistics. To be efficient, the Census Bureau attempts to obtain information you may have given to other agencies if you have participated in other government programs. We do so because it helps to ensure your data are complete, and it reduces the number of questions you are asked on this survey. The same confidentiality laws that protect your survey answers also protect any additional information we collect (Title 13, U.S.C., Section 9). If you wish to request that your information not be combined with information from other agencies, we ask that you notify the field representative at the time of the interview.

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What is this survey?

The Survey of Income and Program Participation is a longitudinal survey designed to provide a continuing measure of the economic condition of the United States. The data collected cover topics such as income, labor force, participation in government programs, and general demographic characteristics.

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How many times will I be contacted for this survey?

The Survey of Income and Program Participation is a longitudinal survey designed to provide a continuing measure of the economic condition of the United States over time. We will contact Survey Participants once a year for 3 to 5 years to update their information. This allows us to study changes over time.

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Why am I being interviewed?

In order to make this survey cost effective, minimizing the amount of taxpayer dollars used to collect data, a sample of the American population is scientifically selected. Your household, like others, was selected to represent the population.

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Why are you interviewing me and not my neighbor?

In order to make this survey more cost effective, minimizing the amount of tax payer dollars used to collect data, a sample is drawn at random based on several key components, like the purpose of the survey and its target population. The decennial census is used to determine basic characteristics of all households in the U.S. Based on the population size and characteristics, individual households are then chosen to represent larger groups of the population. Your household in particular was randomly chosen to represent your portion of the population to ensure each household is only eligible for one survey each decade.

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Why do you need all this information?

The information collected through this survey is used to make decisions about programs that affect millions of Americans. SIPP is used by researchers to provide elected officials with the information necessary to determine funding for social welfare programs, aid these officials in making voting decisions on legislation, as well as the distribution of these programs and federal funding. Without this information, the allocation of resources would be less effective and those in need of public assistance could possibly go unrecognized.

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How is my income/health/wealth/program participation relevant?

The information you provide is used to make decisions about social programs like how much is spent and where the funding is needed. As the economic situation in the U.S. is constantly changing, the information you provide in this interview is used to assess the effectiveness and further need for social welfare programs and other sources of economic stimulation. The unique design of the SIPP provides information that can more clearly determine the effectiveness of federal programs, child well-being, and other social policy issues.

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Some of these questions are very personal; how do I know the government isn't going to use this information to deport me or take away my benefits?

Your information is protected under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, which includes all of the following:

  • Data from individuals, households, and establishments must be kept confidential.
  • Data must be used only for statistical purposes.
  • Data must not be distributed in a manner that could be used to identify Survey Participants.
  • Data provided to the Census Bureau by individuals and establishments cannot be used in a court of law.

In addition to stripping the data of any personally identifiable information prior to dissemination, anyone with access to the data must sign a Sworn Affidavit of Nondisclosure, which obligates confidentiality and violation is punishable with penalties of 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Technological safeguards are in place on this laptop, the lines through which transmissions occur, and at the storage facility. Additionally, data access is restricted and prior to the release of any data, all products must meet the Disclosure Review Board standards, ensuring the protection of your privacy. Personally identifiable information is not released, including any information that may lead to your identification through a combination of any of the answers you provided. We take careful steps to examine and ensure the protection of all respondents before we release the data to the public.

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Why do you need to know how much I receive from these programs per month?

Because circumstances change sporadically, monthly income information produces the most useful data. We need to collect both the source and the amount of income, labor force information, program participation and eligibility data, and other more general characteristics to measure the effectiveness of existing federal, state, and local programs. Because most program eligibility is based on monthly information, these amounts are necessary to estimate future costs and coverage for government programs, such as food stamps. Additionally, monthly amounts provide improved statistics on the distribution of income and measures of economic well-being in the country.

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SSA Supplement Frequently Asked Questions

Please see the separate SSA Supplement FAQ for more information.

Page Last Revised - January 25, 2022
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