Errors in Survey Reporting and Imputation and Their Effects on Estimates of Food Stamp Program Participation
45 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2011
Date Written: April 1, 2011
Benefit receipt in major household surveys is often underreported. This misreporting leads to biased estimates of the economic circumstances of disadvantaged populations, program takeup, and the distributional effects of government programs, and other program effects. We use administrative data on Food Stamp Program (FSP) participation matched to American Community Survey (ACS) and Current Population Survey (CPS) household data. We show that nearly thirty-five percent of true recipient households do not report receipt in the ACS and fifty percent do not report receipt in the CPS. Misreporting, both false negatives and false positives, varies with individual characteristics, leading to complicated biases in FSP analyses. We then directly examine the determinants of program receipt using our combined administrative and survey data. The combined data allow us to examine accurate participation using individual characteristics missing in administrative data. Our results differ from conventional estimates using only survey data, as such estimates understate participation by single parents, non-whites, low income households, and other groups. To evaluate the use of Census Bureau imputed ACS and CPS data, we also examine whether our estimates using survey data alone are closer to those using the accurate combined data when imputed survey observations are excluded. Interestingly, excluding the imputed observations leads to worse ACS estimates, but has less effect on the CPS estimates.
Keywords: Measurement error, survey errors, program takeup, food stamps, underreporting, imputation, poverty
JEL Classification: C81, D31, I32, I38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation