Enhancing the Quality of Data on Income

Recent Innovations from the HRS

by Michael D. Hurd, F. Thomas Juster, James P. Smith

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This paper evaluates two survey innovations introduced in the HRS that aimed to improve income measurement. The innovations are (1) the integration of questions for income and wealth and (2) matching the periodicity over which income questions are asked to the typical way such income is received. Both innovations had significant impacts in improving the quality of income reports. For example, the integration of income questions into the asset module produced in HRS an across-wave 63 percent increase in the amount of income derived from financial assets, real estate investments and farm and business equity. Similarly, asking respondents to answer using a time interval consistent with how income is received substantially improved the quality of reports on social security income. Fortunately, we also suggest ways that these innovations can be introduced into other major social science surveys.

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Originally published in: The Journal of Human Resources, v. 38, no. 3, 2003, pp. 758-772.

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