Approximating ACS INCRETIR from CPS variables

I am trying to approximate the ACS’s INCRETIR variable using the CPS ASEC’s income variables for 2019. My estimate of the ACS’s INCRETIR using CPS vars is as follows:

I am not sure if the CPS’s INCSURV and INCDISAB should be included in the sum?

In the INCSURV documentation it says “The census variable INCRETIR can be approximated in the CPS dataset by summing the values from INCRETIR, INCSURV, and INCDISAB variables”, which makes me think I should include both INCSURV and INCDISAB. However, in the documentation for INCDISAB it says “Disability income from other sources is not tallied separately in IPUMS-USA and is included in the residual INCOTHER (other income) variable”, which makes me think I shouldn’t include INCDISAB.

I know there isn’t an exact match across the two surveys, but I would like to know best practice for approximating across them for retirement income. Thanks!

I compared the questionnaire text and variable descriptions for INCRETIR in the ACS and the mentioned CPS variables. Based on this review of the documentation, I think INCRETIR [ACS] can be approximated as the sum of INCRET1 [CPS], INCRET2 [CPS], INCSURV [CPS], INCDISAB [CPS], INCPENS [CPS], and INCRANN [CPS] in 2019. However, there are a few other issues you should consider:

  • INCRET1 and INCRET2 only contain information about the first two sources of retirement income. Income from all retirement sources in the CPS is contained in INCRETIR. However, this variable in the 2019-2021 ASEC is only asked of persons age 58+, whereas INCRET1 and INCRET2 have a universe of persons aged 15+. You may want to compare the differences in these variables across respondents who reported information for both to get a sense of how much income you may be missing from third and latter sources of retirement income.

  • The ACS is fielded on a rolling basis and references the previous 12 months while the CPS ASEC asks about the previous calendar year. As a result, the ACS will include income from both the current and previous years.

  • The top allowable value for INCRETIR in the ACS (2003-onward) is the 99.5th percentile in each state. In 2019, this varied from $100,000 - $208,000. Meanwhile, the CPS ASEC retirement income variables each have top codes at $999,999. You can find the list of ACS top codes here.

  • The CPS relies on interviewers to ask questions, while the ACS is a self-administered survey. Interviewers may help respondents recall different sources of income and categorize them appropriately; however, the specificity of the income sources asked about in the CPS and availability of an enumerator to help categorize income sources may also allocate certain income to INCOTHER in CPS that an ACS respondent would categorize as retirement/disability/survivor’s.