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The 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation Event History Calendar Field Test: Study Design and Initial Results

Jeffrey Moore, Jason Fields, Gary Benedetto, Martha Stinson, Anna Chan, and Jerry Maples

KEY WORDS: questionnaire design, recall, reference period, reinterview, response error


The U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) provides monthly information about the nation’s income, wealth, and program usage. Currently, SIPP administers three interviews per year to each sample member; each interview’s reference period covers the preceding four calendar months. In 2006 the Census Bureau initiated a SIPP re-engineering effort, a key component of which is a shift to a single annual interview covering the preceding calendar year. To accomplish this shift, the Census Bureau proposes to employ event history calendar (EHC) methods. Prior research, however, has raised some questions about EHC data quality for topics of key importance to SIPP, such as need-based program participation. In addition, the research base does not address the main SIPP design issue – the proposed shift from a four-month to a twelve-month reference period. To examine the implications of the switch to EHC methods and the corresponding expansion of the survey’s reference period, the Census Bureau conducted a field test of a prototype paper version of an EHC-based SIPP instrument test in the spring of 2008. The essential feature of the test was an EHC reinterview of expired SIPP 2004 panel households. The reference period for the reinterview was calendar year 2007; the primary sample component consisted of cases which had already provided information about calendar year 2007 in the course of their final three SIPP interviews. The field test thus permits a direct comparison of standard questionnaire and EHC reports by the same people, about the same characteristics, and for the same time period. This paper documents the design of the 2008 “paper” test and describes some initial results with regard to the correspondence of the two survey reports – one obtained from a standard questionnaire, the other from an EHC instrument – for several of the key characteristics of interest to SIPP, and for each month of 2007.

CITATION: AUTHOR. (2009). The 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation Event History Calendar Field Test: Study Design and Initial Results. Statistical Research Division Research Report Series (Survey Methodology #2009-09). U.S. Census Bureau. Available online at <>.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Published online: January 11, 2010
Last revised: December 30, 2009

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010