Child Poverty Down – Income of Families with Children Up

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First Annual Decline in Child Poverty Since 2000

Written By: Trudi Renwick, Chief, Poverty Statistics Branch, U.S. Census Bureau

Today the Census Bureau released the 2013 annual Income and Poverty in the United States report. Poverty among children under age 18 fell from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent in 2013. This is the first statistically significant year-to-year decline in child poverty since 2000. For the second year in a row, there was an increase in the median income of families with children.


This meant there were 1.4 million fewer children living in poverty, reducing the child poverty count from 16.1 million in 2012 to 14.7 million in 2013.Figure3_ChildPoverty

Child poverty rates fell for non-Hispanic whites, Asians and Hispanics between 2012 and 2013. The poverty rates for black Figure2_ChildPovertychildren did not change between 2012 and 2013. White non-Hispanic children were responsible for about half of the reduction in the number of children in poverty. The number of Hispanic children in poverty was down 561,000.

Child poverty rates were down in three of the four regions. The change in the poverty rate for children in the South was not statistically significant. Poverty fell both for children in metropolitan statistical areas and children living outside metropolitan statistical areas.



Reductions in poverty were significant for children in married-couple families and families with a male householder. The changes in poverty for children in families with a female householder were not statistically significant.

The poverty status of children is determined by looking at the incomes of their families. Median income for families with children increased between 2011 and 2012 and again between 2012 and 2013 − from $59,285 in 2011 to $60,856 in 2012 to $62,161 in 2013.


Between 2012 and 2013, the number of full-time year-round workers in families with minor children increased from 40.1 million to 41.0 million, an increase of about 960,000 workers. Over this same period, there was a decline of 644,000 in the number of less than full-time, year-round workers in these families.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2000 to 2014 Annual Social and Economic Supplements.

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Continuously Improving the Health Insurance Coverage Estimates from the Current Population Survey

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By Jennifer Cheeseman Day

In an ever-changing world, we must constantly work to enhance our ways of measurement. This year, the U.S. Census Bureau implemented a new set of questions in the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement about health insurance coverage, and next week, we will begin releasing the results. We expect these new questions will better reflect our changing health insurance environment.

Like most data collections, we have a long history of research and survey improvement. Research dating back to the 1990s showed that estimates of the uninsured seemed higher than those of other major surveys, indicating that underreporting of health insurance coverage might be a larger problem for the Current Population Survey (see infographic).

In response, beginning with the 1999 estimates, we added a verification question at the end of the supplement (see infographic). This asked respondents who had not reported any health insurance coverage whether they were, in fact, uninsured during the previous year. This resulted in an 8 percent decline in the uninsured rate between the old and new estimate for 1999, thus moving the Current Population Survey closer to other published estimates.

For the 2000 estimates, we added a new question about the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and in order to provide new, reliable state level estimates of health insurance coverage, we added 28,000 more households to the sample.

 In 2011, we enhanced our data processing methods and released revised estimates on health insurance coverage back to 1999.

 Yet, research continued to suggest the Current Population Survey needed further improvement, as the health insurance estimates still were not in line with other sources.

We researched reporting problems in the survey itself, considering, for example, whether question order matters. We held focus groups and conducted cognitive testing and field tests.  We also conducted expert reviews, interviewer debriefings, record-check studies, and other kinds of research, working to find any potential sources of measurement error.

From this research, we developed a new set of survey questions. The aim was to capture coverage in a more intuitive way and make it easier for the respondents to correctly identify their coverage.

The questions were shorter and simpler. They drilled down as needed and were designed to clarify areas of ambiguity. The survey instrument used previous answers about age, income and other coverage within the household to present appropriate follow-up questions that could capture underreported plans.

And finally, the new design used a hybrid flow of both household- and person-level questions. It begins by asking the first person in the household about his or her coverage, but then fills the information where appropriate for other household members so the questions don’t have to repeat for each person.

In addition, we ran a final field test in 2013 to demonstrate that the questions worked well. With positive results in hand, the Census Bureau moved forward with the redesigned questions earlier this year.

Our goal was to produce the best health insurance coverage estimates with the Current Population Survey. The improvements this year will better measure health insurance coverage for the prior calendar year, thus providing a strong 2013 baseline to measure future changes in health insurance coverage caused by the Affordable Care Act.

See also Health Insurance Coverage Measurement in Two Surveys

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Health Insurance Coverage Measurement in Two Surveys

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By Brett O’Hara

Next week, the U.S. Census Bureau is releasing two sources for health insurance statistics in the United States: the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey. While both surveys have questions that attempt to measure the same phenomena, they go about it in different ways.

Since 1987, the Current Population Survey has produced health insurance statistics every year, making it one of the most widely used sources of statistics on health insurance coverage in the United States. It provides statistics on health insurance status (insured or not insured), as well as the type of coverage, for the nation and by demographic groups, and shows us trends over the last couple of decades (See blog on recent changes to the Current Population Survey)

Starting in 2008, the Census Bureau also began asking about health insurance coverage using the American Community Survey. With its much larger sample size, we can see health insurance statistics for a broader range of geographic levels, including all 50 states, all counties and metro areas, and many other small geographic areas.

Many people ask us which estimate to use for a particular purpose. Our answer differs this year as we introduced a new set of health insurance coverage questions in the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

Both surveys obtain a person’s health insurance status by asking if they have insurance through a number of different sources, such as an employer, directly through an insurance company, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Administration and other public sector insurance, and the military. However, the surveys differ in both their times of collection and reference periods.

Like the other topics in the Current Population Survey’s Annual and Social and Economic Supplement, which is conducted in February, March and April, respondents answer questions about the previous calendar year. Specifically, we ask if they had health insurance coverage at any time in the previous calendar year. The survey, thus, measures if a person was insured on any day during the previous year. They are considered “uninsured” only if, for the entire year, they had no coverage under any type of health insurance.

In contrast, the American Community Survey is a rolling sample of households collected continuously all year long. We ask if a person is currently covered by any of the listed types of health insurance. So, the American Community Survey measures health insurance of the population based on whether people are insured at the point-in-time that they answered the survey during the year of collection.

There is also a variety of differences in the survey logistics. Census Bureau field representatives conduct the Current Population Survey by personal visit or telephone. For the American Community Survey, many respondents receive a paper form to complete and return in the mail. Because of space limits within a paper survey, the American Community Survey asks fewer and less detailed questions than the Current Population Survey. In addition, the American Community Survey asks about the insurance coverage of each household member specifically, while the Current Population Survey asks if anyone in the household is covered, and, if so, who that is.

With these variations and others, the two surveys produce consistent, though slightly different statistics on health insurance coverage. Estimates from these two surveys rose and fell in parallel between 2009 through 2012. This degree of consistency between the two surveys collected under such different conditions gives us confidence that these statistics are useful for those who need to understand the state of health insurance coverage in America.

For this year, as always, the benefit of the Current Population Survey is the combination of detailed employment and detailed income data, along with the health insurance data, which provides an excellent overall picture of the well-being of our nation. However, to compare the 2013 estimates and previous years, there are other sources of health insurance coverage statistics, such as those from the American Community Survey and National Health Interview Survey. Also, because of the larger sample size and smaller sampling errors, we recommend using the American Community Survey for subnational geographies.

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How the Census Bureau Measures Income and Poverty

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Written by: Victoria Velkoff

Income, poverty and health insurance statistics for 2013 from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) will be released Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. One-year statistics from the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) will be released on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014.

In all likelihood, the national statistics from these two sources will not be identical. Why not? Which is correct? Well, it’s complicated.

There are several reasons why the statistics from the two surveys differ. One of the most notable ways in which the two surveys differs is that one asks respondents about income in the previous calendar year while the other asks respondents about income in a rolling 12-month period throughout the year.

The Current Population Survey is conducted every month and serves as the nation’s primary source of statistics on labor force characteristics. Supplements are added in most months; the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the survey provides the nation’s official annual statistics on income and poverty levels as well as statistics on age, sex, race, marital status, educational attainment, employee benefits, work schedules, school enrollment, health insurance, noncash benefits and migration.

The American Community Survey, on the other hand, is the only source of small-area statistics available on a wide range of important social and economic characteristics for all communities in the country. In addition to income, poverty and health insurance, other topics include education, language ability, the foreign-born, marital status, migration, homeownership, the cost and value of our homes and many more.

Statistics from these two surveys differ for multiple reasons. First, income questions on the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement are much more detailed than the summary questions asked on the American Community Survey. For the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, trained interviewers administer the survey while people primarily respond to American Community Survey questions over the Internet or by mail. (Trained interviewers follow-up with a sample of the households who do not respond to the American Community Survey online or by mail.)

Second, the reference periods for the two surveys are very different. The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement asks respondents to report on their income in the previous calendar year. The American Community Survey asks about income in the prior 12 months. Since the American Community Survey is a continuous survey administered throughout the year, some respondents to the 2013 American Community Survey (those who filled out the survey in January 2013) are reporting income received between January 2012 and December 2012, while other respondents (those who filled out the survey in December 2013) are reporting income received between December 2012 and November 2013.

These differences often result in different national statistics for such key indicators as poverty, median income and income inequality. Despite differences in the “levels” of these indicators, the trends over time tend to be very similar across the two surveys. The following graphs show median household income and poverty rates from the American Community Survey compared with statistics from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement for previous years. The red line adjusts the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement for the differences in reference periods.

Comparison of CPS ASEC and ACS Median Household Income and Poverty Rates: 2000 to 2012

Many people contact us each year asking which estimate to use for a particular purpose. For national statistics, we recommend the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement because it provides a consistent historical time series at the national level back, in some cases, more than half a century. The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement can also be used to look at limited state-level trends. However, because of the larger sample size and smaller sampling errors, we recommend using the American Community Survey for subnational geographic areas.

The next two charts show the volatility of the single year Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement statistics relative to the American Community Survey statistics for two smaller states: Arkansas and Maryland. Since the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement has a smaller sample size, you see more volatility in these smaller states.

Comparison of CPS ASEC and ACS POverty Rates: 2000 to 2012: Arkansas

Comparison of CPS ASEC and ACS Household Median Income 2000 to 2012: Maryland

If you are interested in a longer time series for a small state than is available from the American Community Survey, we recommend using two- or three-year averages from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.


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The Maps of Migration

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Written By: David Ihrke and Charlynn Burd

Using Census Flows Mapper, you can see how migration in and out of your county compares with other counties around the country. Today’s release of statistics from the 2008-2012 American Community Survey looks at employment-themed characteristics, such as employment status, work status and occupation, of people who moved to a different county one year ago (or within the last year).

The movement of people from origin to destination is often referred to as a flow. There are three types of flows: inflows (people who move into an area), outflows (people who move out of an area) and net flows (the resulting calculation of inflows minus outflows). Los Angeles County to Orange County, Calif., is among the largest flows in Census Flows Mapper, which allows users to see the county-to-county relationships for inflow, outflow and net migration.

Take a look at these maps and see how they tell the story of the movement in and out of Los Angeles County.



The map above shows inflows, or people who move into an area. From the inflow map, we can see that there is a strong relationship between Los Angeles and its surrounding counties In other words, people from nearby counties move to Los Angeles. Additionally, Los Angeles draws population from counties throughout the West Coast.



From the outflow map, we again can see that there is a strong relationship between Los Angeles County and its surrounding counties, such as San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange. In other words, people from Los Angeles County also move to surrounding counties. However, we can also see that there is some outflow to counties in the Northeast corridor.

Net flows:


Net migration flows look at both those coming to and leaving a county. They are either positive (inflow > outflow) or negative (outflow > inflow) and denote the direction of the flow. For example, Los Angeles County loses population to Riverside County in the net flow; Los Angeles County gains some population from Cook County, Ill. (Chicago).

Try Census Flows Mapper and see what the maps of migration look like for your area. You can also see different characteristics in previous year’s versions. Those versions included sex, age, race and Hispanic origin (2006-2010), and educational attainment, household income and personal income (2007-2011).

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