U.S. Census Bureau


Census money income is defined as income received on a regular basis (exclusive of certain money receipts such as capital gains) before payments for personal income taxes, social security, union dues, medicare deductions, etc. Therefore, money income does not reflect the fact that some families receive part of their income in the form of noncash benefits, such as food stamps, health benefits, subsidized housing, and goods produced and consumed on the farm. In addition, money income does not reflect the fact that noncash benefits are also received by some nonfarm residents which may take the form of the use of business transportation and facilities, full or partial payments by business for retirement programs, medical and educational expenses, etc. Data users should consider these elements when comparing income levels. Moreover, users should be aware that for many different reasons there is a tendency in household surveys for respondents to underreport their income. Based on an analysis of independently derived income estimates, the Census Bureau determined that respondents report income earned from wages or salaries much better than other sources of income and that the reported wage and salary income is nearly equal to independent estimates of aggregate income.

Census also derives alternative income measures that systematically remove or add various income components such as deducting payroll taxes and federal and state income taxes and including the value of specific noncash benefits B food stamps, school lunches, housing subsidies, health insurance programs, and return on home equity. These alternative measures are derived from information collected in Census surveys along with information from other agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Sources of Census Income

The Census Bureau collects income data from several surveys. Depending on your needs, one survey may be more suitable than another. The following is a list of Census Bureau surveys:

  1. The Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS)
  2. The American Community Survey (ACS)
  3. Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).
  4. Decennial Census

These surveys differ in length and detail of the questionnaire, the number of addresses interviewed, the methodology used to collect and process the data, and, consequently, in the income estimates produced. As a result, it is important to understand that different surveys and collection methods produce different results, and it is important to kwow when it is appropriate to use each survey or method.

Contact the Demographic Call Center Staff at 301-763-2422 or 1-866-758-1060 (toll free) or visit ask.census.gov for further information on Income Data.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division
Last Revised: December 20, 2005