Selected Research & Analysis: Data from Surveys

See also related Extramural Projects.

Workers' Expectations About Their Future Social Security Benefits: How Realistic Are They?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 81, No. 4 (released November 2021)
by John A. Turner and David Rajnes

This study examines workers' expectations about their future Social Security benefits. The authors compile and analyze results of more than 60 individual surveys covering 1971 through 2020, with more than 130,000 respondents in total. The authors compare results over time and by demographic group to examine how Social Security expectations vary. They investigate possible explanations for the variations they find as well as for the finding that workers' expectations tend to be more pessimistic than Social Security actuarial projections.

Improving the Measurement of Retirement Income of the Aged Population
ORES Working Paper No. 116 (released January 2021)
by Irena Dushi and Brad Trenkamp

Research has shown that survey-reported pension and retirement income measures may suffer from reporting errors, which lead to biased estimates of income and poverty of the aged population. In this paper, the authors evaluate income estimates from the Census Bureau's 2016 Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC). The authors compare 2016 CPS ASEC public-use data with public-use survey data from the 2016 Health and Retirement Study and with CPS ASEC data that have been merged with administrative data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration. They find that for the population aged 65 or older, supplementing the CPS ASEC with IRS and Social Security administrative data results in a higher estimate of pension income's share of aggregate income, less estimated reliance on Social Security, and a lower estimated rate of poverty. They also find that the HRS provides better estimates of the income of the aged population than the public-use CPS data.

The Use of Longitudinal Data on Social Security Program Knowledge
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 79, No. 4 (released November 2019)
by Laith Alattar, Matt Messel, David Rogofsky, and Mark A. Sarney

This article presents and compares results from the first two waves of Understanding America Study (UAS) surveys of public knowledge about Social Security programs. The article briefly reviews the Social Security Administration's past efforts to gauge public knowledge of the programs, describes the UAS survey instrument used in the current effort, and presents survey results with detail by respondent age, education, and financial literacy level. Among the authors' findings are that younger workers with lower levels of education and financial literacy are logical targets for agency informational outreach and interventions.

When Every Dollar Counts: Comparing Reported Earnings of Social Security Disability Program Beneficiaries in Survey and Administrative Records
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 78, No. 4 (released November 2018)
by David C. Wittenburg, Jeffrey Hemmeter, Holly Matulewicz, Lindsay Glassman, and Lisa Schwartz

This article examines differences between survey- and administrative data–based estimates of employment and earnings for a sample of Social Security Administration (SSA) disability program beneficiaries. The analysis uses linked records from SSA's National Beneficiary Survey and administrative data from the agency's Master Earnings File. The authors find that estimated employment rates and earnings levels based on administrative data are higher than those based on survey data for beneficiaries overall and by sociodemographic subgroup. In proportional terms, the differences between survey and administrative data tend to be greater among subgroups with survey-reported employment rates that are lower than that of beneficiaries overall.

An Introduction to the Understanding America Study Internet Panel
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 78, No. 2 (released May 2018)
by Laith Alattar, Matt Messel, and David Rogofsky

This article provides an overview of the Understanding America Study (UAS), a nationally representative Internet panel of approximately 6,000 adult respondents that is administered by the University of Southern California. The UAS, which began in 2014, represents one of the richest sources of panel data available in the United States. It includes over 50 survey modules on topics such as retirement planning, economic well-being, and psychological constructs. This article reviews the UAS methodology; describes how external researchers may commission UAS surveys, incorporate their own survey questions and methodological experiments, and conduct randomized controlled trials; highlights selected publicly available data from UAS surveys on cognition, personality, financial literacy and behaviors, political views, and other topics; and discusses opportunities for external parties to work with UAS administrators in developing new surveys and future lines of research.

Why Researchers Now Rely on Surveys for Race Data on OASDI and SSI Programs: A Comparison of Four Major Surveys
Research and Statistics Note No. 2016-01 (released January 2016)
by Patricia P. Martin

Policy interest in the sociodemographic characteristics of beneficiaries of the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) programs is increasing as the minority share of the senior and disabled population grows. This note discusses using four major surveys—the Current Population Survey, the Survey of Income and Program Participation, the American Community Survey, and the Health and Retirement Study—to examine OASDI and SSI program use by race and ethnicity. Survey profiles highlight each survey's history, design, and methodology; the categories with which each collects race and ethnicity data; and their strengths and limitations for analyzing SSA's program data.

Social Security Income Measurement in Two Surveys
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 3 (released August 2013)
by Howard M. Iams and Patrick J. Purcell

The deduction of Medicare premiums from Social Security benefit payments complicates the estimation of Social Security income in household surveys. Although the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS) and Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) both aim to collect and record gross Social Security benefit income before Medicare premium deductions, comparing the survey data with Social Security records indicates that the CPS and SIPP estimates differ and suggests that some survey respondents may report net benefit income.

Using Matched Survey and Administrative Data to Estimate Eligibility for the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 2 (released May 2010)
by Erik Meijer, Lynn A. Karoly, and Pierre-Carl Michaud

This article uses matched survey and administrative data to estimate, as of 2006, the size of the population eligible for the Low-Income Subsidy (LIS), which was designed to provide "extra help" with premiums, deductibles, and copayments for Medicare Part D beneficiaries with low income and limited assets. The authors employ individual-level data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the Health and Retirement Study to cover the potentially LIS-eligible noninstitutionalized and institutionalized populations of all ages. The survey data are matched to Social Security administrative data to improve on potentially error-ridden survey measures of income components and program participation.

Access Restrictions and Confidentiality Protections in the Health and Retirement Study
Research and Statistics Note No. 2009-01 (released July 2009)
by Lionel P. Deang and Paul S. Davies

Organizations involved in statistical surveys of human subjects face two important and competing challenges: protecting data confidentiality while maximizing data accessibility to potential researchers. This note examines how the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), conducted by the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan, attempts to balance data confidentiality with the desire to broaden the pool of potential data users. Current HRS procedures are summarized and compared with those of organizations with similar programs, and potential ways to expand HRS use without compromising confidentiality are discussed.

Measurement Issues Associated with Using Survey Data Matched with Administrative Data from the Social Security Administration
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 2 (released July 2009)
by Paul S. Davies and T. Lynn Fisher

Researchers using survey data matched with administrative data benefit from the rich demographic and economic detail available from survey data combined with detailed programmatic data from administrative records. This article focuses on survey data matched with administrative data from the Social Security Administration and addresses the strengths and weaknesses of each in four specific areas: program participation and benefits, disability and health information, earnings, and deferred compensation The article discusses the implications of these strengths and weaknesses for decisions that researchers must make regarding the appropriate data source and definition for the concepts in question.

The Impact of Survey Choice on Measuring the Relative Importance of Social Security Benefits to the Elderly
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 2 (released February 2008)
by T. Lynn Fisher

This article provides insight into how measures of elderly economic well-being are sensitive to the survey data source. In Social Security Administration's publication Income of the Population 55 or Older, data are based on the national Current Population Survey (CPS). The preciseness of the survey statistics depends upon the willingness and ability of CPS respondents to answer questions accurately. This article contrasts income statistics calculated using the CPS and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Administrative data for Social Security benefits and SSI are also used to evaluate the accuracy of the income estimates.

An Overview of the National Survey of SSI Children and Families and Related Products
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 66, No. 2 (released May 2006)
by Paul S. Davies and Kalman Rupp

During the first three decades of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the number of children receiving SSI because of a disability increased from 70,000 in 1974 to about 1 million at the end of 2005. With over 8,500 interviews completed between July 2001 and June 2002, the National Survey of SSI Children and Families (NSCF) is the first nationally representative survey since 1978 of noninstitutionalized children and young adults who were receiving SSI during the survey period or had formerly received SSI. The article discusses the objectives of the survey, its methodology and implementation, content of the questionnaire, a randomized response-incentive experiment, and related products including the release of a public-use data file.

The RAND HRS Data File: A User-Friendly Version of the Health and Retirement Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 65, No. 2 (released August 2004)
by John W. R. Phillips
Executive Summary from—Survey Estimates of Wealth: A Comparative Analysis and Review of the Survey of Income and Program Participation
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 65, No. 1 (released May 2004)
by John L. Czajka, Jonathan E. Jacobson, and Scott Cody
Survey Estimates of Wealth: A Comparative Analysis and Review of the Survey of Income and Program Participation
Contractor Report (released August 2003)
by John L. Czajka, Jonathan E. Jacobson, and Scott Cody
Social Security Benefit Reporting in the Survey of Income and Program Participation and in Social Security Administrative Records
ORES Working Paper No. 96 (released June 2002)
by Janice A. Olson

The quality of Social Security benefit reporting in household surveys is important for policy research on the Social Security program and, more generally, for research on the economic well-being of the aged and disabled populations. This is particularly true for the aged among whom receipt of Social Security benefits is nearly universal and reliance on such benefits is considerable. This paper examines the consistency between Social Security benefit amounts for May 1990 as reported in the Survey of Income and Program Participation and given in the Social Security Administration's administrative records for the respondent.

Counting the Disabled: Using Survey Self-Reports to Estimate Medical Eligibility for Social Security's Disability Programs
ORES Working Paper No. 90 (released January 2001)
by Debra Dwyer, Jianting Hu, Denton R. Vaughan, and Bernard Wixon

This paper develops an approach for tracking medical eligibility for the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) disability programs on the basis of self-reports from an ongoing survey. Using a structural model of the disability determination process estimated on a sample of applicants, we make out-of-sample predictions of eligibility for nonbeneficiaries in the general population. This work is based on the 1990 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation. We use alternative methods of estimating the number of people who would be found eligible if they applied, considering the effects of sample selection adjustments, sample restrictions, and several methods of estimating eligibility/ineligibility from a set of continuous probabilities. The estimates cover a wide range, suggesting the importance of addressing methodological issues. In terms of classification rates for applicants, our preferred measure outperforms the conventional single variable model based on the "prevented" measure.

Under our preferred estimate, 4.4 million people—2.9 percent of the nonbeneficiary population aged 18–64—would meet SSA's medical criteria for disability. Of that group, about one-third have average earnings above the substantial gainful activity limit. Those we classify as medically eligible are similar to allowed applicants in terms of standard measures of activity limitations.

Attrition in the New Beneficiary Survey and Followup, and Its Correlates
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 63, No. 1 (released July 2000)
by Kate Antonovics, Robert Haveman, Karen C. Holden, and Barbara Wolfe

In this article we explore the extent of and reasons for attrition in the New Beneficiary Survey (NBS) between the first interview in 1982 and the followup interview in 1991. We examine a variety of potential determinants of attrition, separating the probability of attrition due to death from a refusal to be interviewed. Because the NBS sample is drawn from and linked to Social Security administrative records, information on mortality as a cause of attrition is exact. Hence, we are able to examine differences in the patterns and predictors of attrition due to these two causes of attrition and differences between attrition among retired and disabled workers.

Who Is "62 Enough"? Identifying Respondents Eligible for Social Security Early Retirement Benefits in the Health and Retirement Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 62, No. 3 (released January 2000)
by Janice A. Olson

Workers are not instantly eligible for Social Security retirement benefits on their 62nd birthdays, nor can they receive benefits in the month they turn 62. This note discusses how well researchers can do using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to identify respondents old enough to receive and report early Social Security retirement benefits. It shows that only some workers aged 62 at the time of an HRS interview will be "62 enough" to have received a Social Security benefit and reported it in the survey.

Who Is "62 Enough": Identifying Eligibles for Social Security Early Retirement in the Health and Retirement Study
ORES Working Paper No. 85 (released September 1999)
by Janice A. Olson

Either the normal retirement age (NRA) or the earliest eligibility age (EEA) for Social Security retirement benefits would be increased under many proposals for Social Security reform. As a consequence, research interest in who retires at early ages and the potential effects of an increase in the NRA or EEA has grown. This note discusses how well researchers can do using data from the Health and Retirement Study in identifying the pool of respondents who could have received early Social Security retirement benefits.

Linkages With Data From Social Security Administrative Records in the Health and Retirement Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 62, No. 2 (released September 1999)
by Janice A. Olson

The Health and Retirement Study (HRS is a major longitudinal study designed for scientific and policy researchers for study of the economics, health, and demography of retirement and aging. This note describes the data from SSA records that have been released for linking to HRS data, linkage rates resulting from the consent process, and subgroup patterns in linkage rates.

Linkages with Data from Social Security Administrative Records in the Health and Retirement Study
ORES Working Paper No. 84 (released August 1999)
by Janice A. Olson

The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is a major longitudinal study designed for scientific and policy researchers for study of the economics, health, and demography of retirement and aging. The primary HRS sponsor is the National Institute of Aging, and the project is being conducted by the Survey Research Center of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Several agencies, including the Social Security Administration, are supporting the project. This is the second paper describing SSA's data support for the HRS. It describes the data from SSA records that have been released for linking to HRS data, linkage rates resulting from the consent process, and subgroup patterns in linkage rates.

The Accuracy of Survey-Reported Marital Status: Evidence from Survey Records Matched to Social Security Records
ORES Working Paper No. 80 (released January 1999)
by David A. Weaver

Many researchers have concluded that, in surveys, divorced persons often fail to report accurate marital information. In this paper, I revisit this issue using a new source of data—surveys exactly matched to Social Security data. I find that divorced persons frequently misreport their marital status, but there is evidence that the misreporting is unintentional. A discussion of possible improvements in surveys is presented. Implications for the study of differential mortality and the study of poverty among aged women are discussed.

Sampling Variance Estimates for SSA Program Recipients From the 1990 Survey of Income and Program Participation
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 56, No. 3 (released July 1993)
by Barry V. Bye and Salvatore J. Gallicchio
Two Papers on a New SIPP-Based Microsimulation Model of SSI and OASDI
ORES Working Paper No. 54 (released December 1991)
by Bernard Wixon and Denton R. Vaughan

This working paper includes two interrelated papers presented at the annual meeting of the American Statistical Association in August 1991. The papers outline the central ideas and the progress to date associated with the development of a new microsimulation model for program analysis at the Social Security Administration (SSA). The first paper, Rationale for a SIPP-Based Microsimulation Model of SSI and OASDI, relates the analytical potential of the proposed model to data development efforts intended to overcome specific information gaps. It also suggests areas in which the model can enrich SSA's ability to address issues specifically related to either the Supplemental Security Income or Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance programs or issues requiring comparative analysis of both programs. The second paper, Implementing an SSI Model Using the Survey of Income and Program Participation, describes progress on a preliminary version of the model focusing on the SSI program. It includes a brief description of the model, presentation and discussion of initial results, and comparisons with other studies.

Reflections on the Income Estimates from the Initial Panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP)
ORES Working Paper No. 39 (released September 1989)
by Denton R. Vaughan

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) represents a major effort on the part of the Federal statistical community to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of information on the economic resources of the household sector and to permit a more accurate portrayal of the impact of government tax and transfer programs on the economic status of the population.

This paper will not offer a comprehensive and definitive statement on the quality of SIPP income data. Neither the time nor resources available to the author, nor indeed, the state of SIPP data products, would permit making such a statement. However, enough information is available to offer a tentative interpretation of important aspects of the income data available from the first SIPP panel. Two broad themes will be touched upon. Since it is generally believed that the major technical defect of income surveys is the substantial tendency to underidentify the sources and amounts of income received by the population, the issue of the completeness of the SIPP money income estimates will be the central issue. A second important aspect of income data has to do with its suitability for analytic purposes.

Development and Evaluation of a Survey-Based Type of Benefit Classification for the Social Security Program
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 52, No. 1 (released January 1989)
by Denton R. Vaughan
A Note on Sampling Variance Estimates for Social Security Program Participants From the Survey of Income and Program Participation
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 10 (released October 1988)
by Barry V. Bye and Salvatore J. Gallicchio
Commentary: Disability Research
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 5 (released May 1988)
by Barry V. Bye
The 1982 New Beneficiary Survey: An Introduction
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 3 (released March 1988)
by Linda Drazga Maxfield
Commentary: Survey Research in Social Security
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 3 (released March 1988)
by Sally R. Sherman
The 1982 New Beneficiary Survey: An Introduction
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 46, No. 11 (released November 1983)
by Linda Drazga Maxfield
A Note on Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Discrete Choice Models from the 1978 Survey of Disability and Work
ORES Working Paper No. 28 (released November 1982)
by Barry V. Bye and Salvatore J. Gallicchio

This paper demonstrates an alternative maximum likelihood procedure for estimating discrete choice models in retrospective samples, such as a model of SSA disability beneficiaries or application status in the 1978 Survey of Disability and Work.

The Income Survey Development Program: Design Features and Initial Findings
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 44, No. 11 (released November 1981)
by Martynas A. Yčas and Charles A. Lininger
The Survey of the Low-Income Aged and Disabled: An Introduction
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 40, No. 2 (released February 1977)
by Thomas Tissue
First Findings of the 1972 Survey of the Disabled: General Characteristics
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 10 (released October 1976)
by Kathryn H. Allan
Payroll Taxes Under Social Security Programs: Cross-National Survey
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 38, No. 12 (released December 1975)
by Martin B. Tracy
Income of the Newly Disabled: Survey of Recently Disabled Adults
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 38, No. 9 (released September 1975)
by Philip Frohlich
Technical Note on Source and Reliability of the Estimates for the 1963 Survey of the Aged
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 27, No. 7 (released July 1964)