Poverty Status & Public Assistance Support Sources

Poverty Status & Public Assistance Support Sources

Created Variables

POVERTY LEVEL: These variables provide the poverty level for the respondent's household and family size based on the federal Poverty Income Guidelines.
POVERTY STATUS: These variables reflect the respondent's household's actual status with respect to the poverty level for his/her family size.
RECIPIENCY MONTHLY RECEIPT ARRAYS:
These variables contain the monthly amount of receipt beginning in January, 1978, for each of 5 types of government assistance: unemployment for respondent; unemployment for spouse/partner; AFDC/TANF for respondent and/or spouse/partner; SSI for respondent and/or spouse/partner; and food stamps for respondent and/or spouse/partner.
SURVEY YEAR RECIPIENCY DATA FOR MONTH COLLECTED: These variables reflect the actual survey year in which the data for each month was collected for each respondent.
TOTAL AMOUNT OF RECEIPT FOR CALENDAR YEAR PRIOR TO SURVEY YEAR: These variables contain the total amount received in each calendar year beginning in 1978 for each of 5 types of government assistance: unemployment for respondent; unemployment for spouse/partner; AFDC/TANF for respondent and/or spouse/partner; SSI for respondent and/or spouse/partner; and food stamps for respondent and/or spouse/partner.
TOTAL AMOUNT AFDC, FOOD STAMPS OR OTH WELFARE/SSI RECEIVED DURING CALENDAR YEAR: These variables contain the yearly amount of "welfare" assistance (AFDC/TANF, food stamps and/or SSI received in each calendar year beginning in 1978.

 

Important Information About Using Poverty Data

The poverty level is the level of income below which a family the size of the respondent's is considered to be in poverty. The poverty status is the actual status of the respondent's family compared with that poverty level. The economically disadvantaged nonblack/non-Hispanic oversample includes those youth located during the screening who were selected for and completed a base year interview:

  • whose family income during the past 12 months (reported by the householder) was equal to or below the 1978 poverty guidelines established for that family size
  • whose race was coded by interviewer observation as not black or Hispanic, that is, "nonblack/non-Hispanic" or "other" and whose origin or descent (reported by the householder) was neither one of the Hispanic codes nor black, Negro, or Afro-American

A family was designated as in poverty if its income over the past 12 months was equal to or less than $3140 + ($1020 * (N-1)) for a nonfarm family or equal to or less than $2690 + ($ 860 * (N-1)) for a farm family, where N is the number of persons in the family unit.

Two sets of family poverty variables, family poverty status and family poverty level, are available for NLSY79 respondents. In addition, detailed information is provided on public assistance income sources, and a series of environmental variables describe the extent of family and individual poverty within the respondent's geographical area of residence. Family income information collected during the 1978 screening was used to designate the economically disadvantaged oversample of NLSY79 respondents.

Family Poverty Status (1978-2012): Variables have been created for each survey year that indicate whether a respondent's total family income for the past calendar year was above or below the poverty level. Information used to create the 1979-2012 poverty variables is derived from either:

  1. the total family income information provided during the household interview by the parent when the respondent was living in the parental home or
  2. the sum of component income sources reported by the respondent (when not living in the parental home) during administration of the "Income" section of each questionnaire. 

Income sources for the respondent and all persons related to them by blood, marriage, or adoption are included in the calculation. Availability of data for individual respondents has been affected by nonresponse to the income questions. Poverty status data are not available for those respondents who, during post-1986 survey years, had one or more income components missing. Nor are they available for those respondents who, during the 1980-86 interviews, were "refusals" or "don't knows" to both the household interview dollar amount question and a follow-up question requiring a "yes-no" response to a question on level of family income. The method used to create the 1978 family poverty status variable was unique. Appendix 2 - Total Net Family Income in the NLSY79 Codebook Supplement provides a narrative description; R02179.30 identifies which of three income sources was used to determine each respondent's status.

Two sets of poverty level indicators have been used across survey years:

  • The yearly poverty income guidelines (issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and based on Census Bureau poverty guidelines) were used to determine poverty status for the 1978, 1979, and 1987-2012 survey years.
  • Projected poverty income levels computed by CHRR were used for the 1980-86 poverty status variables. More complete information on the calculation procedures developed by CHRR to create 'Total Net Family Income' and 'Family Poverty Status' and to project poverty guidelines for the 1980-86 survey years can be found in Appendix 2 - Total Net Family Income in the NLSY79 Codebook Supplement. Copies of the official poverty guidelines and the projected 1980-86 cutoff values are included in the appendix.

Family Poverty Level (1979, 1987-2012): The poverty level variables provide the amount of total family income, controlling for family size and State of residence, below which a respondent (and his or her family) would be considered to be in poverty for that year. They are available for those survey years during which CHRR relied on official poverty guidelines for the creation of the 'Family Poverty Status' variables.

Public Assistance Support Sources (1979-2012): The "Income" and "Health" sections of each year's questionnaire collect information on amounts and time periods during which cash and noncash benefits were received from such sources as public assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Food Stamps, government rent subsidies, public housing, or welfare-provided health/hospitalization coverage.  The universes and types of data collected vary across survey years as indicated in Table 1.

Table 1. Sources of Public Assistance Support: 1979-2012 NLSY79

Survey Years Universe Source of Assistance Data Collected
1979-2012 R/spouse/partner1 Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)/TANF after 1996 Whether R spouse/partner received income from, the average monthly income amount, and which specific months since the last interview such income was received
1979-84 Opposite-sex partner Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Whether opposite-sex partner received such income in past calendar year
1990-93 Partner Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Whether opposite-sex partner received such income in past calendar year
1979-84 R/spouse Other (specified and unspecified) Public Assistance Whether R/spouse received income from, the average monthly income amount, and which specific months since the last interview such income was received
1979-84 Opposite-sex partner Supplemental Security Income, Other Public Assistance, or Welfare Whether opposite-sex partner received such income in past calendar year
1990-93 Partner Supplemental Security Income, Other Public Assistance or Welfare Whether opposite-sex adult received such income in past calendar year
1980-84 R/spouse Supplemental Security Income Whether R/spouse received income from, the average monthly income amount, and which specific months since the last interview such assistance was received
1985-98 R/spouse Supplemental Security Income, Other Public Assistance, or Welfare Whether R/spouse received income from, the average monthly income amount, and which specific months since the last interview such assistance was received
1979-2012 R/spouse Food Stamps Whether R/spouse received income from, amount received most recently, and which specific months since the last interview such assistance was received
1979-2012 Other family member AFDC, TANF or Public Assistance Whether other family member received income from either source in past calendar year
1979-84 R/other family members Public Housing Whether R and other family members lived in such housing in past calendar year
1979-85 R/other family members Government Rent Subsidy Whether R and other family members received such a subsidy in past calendar year
1986-2012 R/other family members Public Housing/Government Rent Whether R and other family members lived in public housing or received a rent subsidy in past calendar year
1989, 1990 and 1992-2012 R/spouse/or children Medicaid/Welfare Health/Hospitalization Coverage Whether Medicaid/Welfare was source of health/hospitalization coverage
1998 R/spouse/partner Targeted Benefits/Assistance Whether R/spouse/partner received income from, the average monthly amount, and which specific months since the last interview such assistance was received
2000 R/spouse/partner Targeted Benefits Whether R/spouse/partner received Welfare or social service agency support to cover part of wages
Universe includes partner from 1993 survey on.

Poverty Characteristics of Respondent's County (1979-2004)/SMSA of Residence (1979-82): Based on data from the 1977, 1983, 1988, 1992, and 1996 County & City Data Books, variables such as percent of families with money income below the poverty level, number of persons below the poverty level, and families with female heads of household below the poverty level are available for each respondent's area of residence on the Geocode CD. The geographical area (county or SMSA) for which these data are available varies across survey years. 

Value of Food Stamps: The created variable 'Total Net Family Income,' used to determine a respondent's poverty status, includes in its calculation the noncash value of Food Stamps. In 1987, a 'Total Net Family Income in Past Calendar Year (Census)' variable was created by CHRR that excluded food stamp income for the 1986 calendar year only. Census poverty calculations for the U.S. do not include the value of food stamps. Hence, NLSY79 income calculations are similar, but not exactly the same as, other national data sets.

Welfare Reform Questions in 1996: In 1996, an additional set of questions was included to solicit information on the effects of welfare reform on certain behaviors of respondents related to seeking assistance. Respondents reporting AFDC or SSI/Other Public Assistance were asked whether they had sought work, enrolled in training/school, or performed community service in response to changing requirements. 

Respondents not reporting these types of assistance, but reporting a combined R and spouse/partner income of 125 percent of the poverty level or less, were asked whether they had applied for assistance, why they had not received any, and if and how the welfare reform changes affected them. (The determination of poverty level for the purpose of conducting the survey was based on the number of household members. This may be a relatively crude measure of family size, but should result in more conservative estimates, which should tend to include rather than exclude more respondents from this set of questions.) These items are part of the "Income" area of interest.

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: Data have been collected during each interview from NLSY79 young adults on whether they had received AFDC, TANF, Food Stamps, public housing, or other sources of public assistance. Poverty status has been calculated for each year of the NLSY97 survey. Older Men's poverty status variables were created for the 1966, 1967, and 1969 surveys and a ratio of the respondent's family income in the previous year to the poverty level was created for the 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1973, and 1975 surveys. Mature Women's poverty status variables were created for the 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1976 and 1977 surveys.  Young Women's poverty status variables were created for the 1968-73, 1975, 1977, 1978, and 1980 surveys.

Information on public assistance has been regularly collected for each Cohort as part of the "Income" section. For more precise details about the content of each survey, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide using the tabs above for more information.

Survey Instruments and Documentation Public assistance support source questions are located in the "Income and Assets" section of each survey: Section 21 (1979), Section 17 (1980), Section 12 (1981, 1987, 1989, 1990, and 1992), Section 14 (1982 and 1985), Section 13 (1983, 1986, 1994-2012), Section 15 (1984), and Section 11 (1988, 1991, and 1993). The 1979-86 household series were collected with the Household Interview Forms. Appendix 2 - Total Net Family Income describes the creation of the 'Family Poverty Status' variables (for creation of recipiency event history see Appendix 15: Recipiency Event Histories). Copies of the projected poverty income levels developed by CHRR for those years in which the official poverty income guidelines were not used are provided in the NLSY79 Codebook Supplement.
Areas of Interest The 'Family Poverty Status' and 'Family Poverty Level' variables are found in the "Key Variables" area of interest. The public assistance support sources variables are in "Income." The county/SMSA of residence poverty characteristic variables are located in the county and city data book files on the Geocode CD. Select variables on total welfare income for other family members and months that the respondent/spouse/partner received income from SSI can be found in the "Misc. xxxx" areas of interest.