The Use and Misuse of Income Data and Extreme Poverty in the United States

Bruce D. Meyer, University of Chicago
Derek Wu, University of Chicago
Victoria Mooers, Columbia University
Carla Medalia, US Census Bureau
Publication Date:
Jan 2021
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

Recent research suggests that the share of US households living on less than $2/person/day is high and rising. We reexamine such extreme poverty by linking SIPP and CPS data to administrative tax and pro- gram data. We find that more than 90% of those reported to be in extreme poverty are not, once we include in-kind transfers, replace survey reports of earnings and transfer receipt with administrative records, and account for ownership of substantial assets. More than half of all misclassified households have incomes from the administrative data above the poverty line, and many have middle-class mea- sures of material well-being.


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