What's included in the INCTOT variable /ACS

Any hints to find/ask whether the INCTOT variable from acs includes stimulus payments given during the pandemic?



Whether these are included or not is ambiguous. The ACS is mostly self-reported, and was not modified in 2021 to ask about the payments. You can see the 2021 questionnaire here. The income questions are on page 18 of the PDF. There’s not an obvious place to report the stimulus payments here. Component f is the closest, but it does specify “Any public assistance or welfare payments from the state or local welfare office.” Whether respondents interpret this to include stimulus payments likely varies from person to person. For what it’s worth, my intuition is that most people would not report their stimulus checks as income.

The CPS ASEC is the primary source for official income and poverty statistics at the national level. It was modified in 2021 to ask specifically about the stimulus payments, and you can read the details in this working paper.