Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) Series

Investigator(s): U.S. Bureau of the Census

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) program, initiated in 1983, is a longitudinal, multi-panel survey primarily of adults in households in the United States, interviewed at least nine times at four-month intervals and followed over the life of the panel. The SIPP fills the gaps that the Current Population Survey (CPS) leaves by providing data that afford a better understanding and analyses of the distribution of income, wealth, and poverty in the society, and of the effects of federal and state programs on the well-being of families and individuals. SIPP information falls into two categories: the core information, and other questions (found in "topical modules") that produce in-depth information on specific subjects and are asked at only one or two interviews. The core questions cover demographic characteristics, labor force participation, program participation, amounts and types of earned and unearned income received, including transfer payments and noncash benefits from various programs, and asset ownership. The goals of SIPP are to improve the measurement of the economic situation of persons, families, and households in the U.S., and to provide a tool for managing and evaluating government transfer and service programs. SIPP collects more detailed data than any other national survey on program eligibility, access and participation, transfer income, and in-kind benefits. It provides critical data for employed and unemployed persons on cash and noncash incomes, assets component of wealth, subannual program participation patterns, and the dynamics of household relationships. SIPP aims to: improve the accuracy in reporting and classifying income sources, obtain subannual information on income recipiency and program participation, examine interactions among transfer programs, labor participation, and living arrangements, obtain sufficient information to improve the simulation of eligibility under the major means-tested cash and in-kind transfer programs, and obtain improved measures of assets and liabilities. After 1996, a new data series, Survey of Program Dynamics, was established to investigate the effects of welfare reform on recipient families and children. Two retired SIPP panels (1992 and 1993), which represent the pre-welfare reform situation of households, were chosen as one of the important samples for the Survey of Program Dynamics (SPD) panels created after the SIPP. These SIPP panels provide extensive baseline (background) information from which to determine the effects of welfare reform that the SPD program surveys. By interviewing the same households as SIPP in the SPD, analysts are provided with data for the baseline pre-reform period, along with data for the reform implementation period, and the medium-term post-reform period, enabling researchers access to data to assess short-term and medium-term consequences and outcomes for families and individuals. The use of the SIPP panels doubles the sample size for certain groups of interest. Interviews carried out with the same households in both the SIPP and the SPD panels expand the range of information on the same population and provide panels data necessary to effectively evaluate the impact of the law.

For data files from 1984 to 2001 (SAS, SPSS, and Stata, in addition to documentation), please visit the National Bureau of Economic Research Web site.