individual respondents. The panel also was charged to consider alternative uses of administrative records for a reengineered SIPP that do not require actual data linking (for example, to evaluate SIPP data quality). In addition, the panel could consider aspects of the reengineered SIPP survey with regard to interview periodicity, mode of data collection, and sample source and size.

The panel addressed the charge by first examining the history of SIPP to inform its deliberations about the survey’s purpose, value, strengths, and weaknesses (Chapter 2). We then reviewed alternative uses of administrative records in a reengineered SIPP (Chapter 3) and, finally, considered innovations in SIPP design and data collection, including the proposed use of annual interviews with an event history calendar (Chapter 4). The panel’s conclusions and recommendations from each chapter follow.


Conclusion 2-1: The Survey of Income and Program Participation is a unique source of information for a representative sample of household members on the intrayear dynamics of income, employment, and program eligibility and participation, together with related demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. This information remains as vital today for evaluating and improving government programs addressed to social and economic needs of the U.S. population as it did when the survey began 25 years ago.

Conclusion 2-2: The Survey of Income and Program Participation’s (SIPP) history of forward movement followed by setbacks has contributed to the survey’s falling short of its original promise with regard to timeliness, usability, and maintenance of data quality. With the Census Bureau’s planned SIPP reengineering program, there is an opportunity to put the survey on a much firmer foundation for the future. It is essential that the Census Bureau’s program to reengineer SIPP address its problems and retain and build on its unique value and strengths.

No survey can be all things to all users. In reengineering SIPP, the focus should be on improving the content and design features of the survey that make possible its unique contribution.

Recommendation 2-1: To guide the design of a reengineered Survey of Income and Program Participation, the Census Bureau should consider the primary goal of the survey to be to provide data for policy analysis and research on the short-run (intrayear) dynamics of economic well-being for families and households, including employment, earnings, other income, and program eligibility and participation.

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