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For all persons, INCSS reports the total income they received from Social Security and equivalent tier 1 Railroad Retirement benefits. Using the reported income information, annual income amounts were then edited and imputed for every record on the full-year file. Please refer to the IPUMS user note on Income Data in MEPS for more information on the collection, editing (including top- and bottom-coding), and imputation of income variables in MEPS, as well as changes to the target population for income data collection over time. Users may also be interested in the data quality flag, QINCSS, which reports the editing methods used for INCWAGE.

If respondents needed more information about what kinds of income to report as Social Security income, they were provided with the additional guidance: "Social Security is also known as the Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program (OASDI), in reference to its three parts:

The amount of the monthly benefit depends upon previous earnings and upon the age at which the person chooses to begin receiving benefits. The earliest age at which benefits are payable is 62.

A person who has worked long enough and recently enough to be covered can receive benefits upon becoming totally disabled, regardless of his or her age. The person must be unable to continue in his or her previous job and unable to adjust to other work; furthermore, the disability must be long-term (lasting or expected to last for at least one year or to result in death). The amount of the disability benefit payable depends on the person's age and previous earnings.

If a worker covered by Social Security dies, [the] surviving spouse or children can receive survivors' benefits. Sometimes, survivors' benefits are available to a divorced spouse. Children cannot receive survivors' benefits after age 19 unless the child was disabled before age 22."

Information on the IPUMS defined-universe for this variable 

Users may wish to note that, while IPUMS defines the universe for this variable as all persons, certain persons were explicitly targeted to answer questions about specific income sources. In addition to the target population of persons who were asked specifically about Social Security income, all persons in the household were eligible to list additional income from "other" sources, which includes income from sources previously asked about in the survey (such as Social Security income). It is unclear if Social Security income reported as an "other" income source is counted in Social Security income or "other" income. Because all persons could technically report Social Security income via the "other" income questionnaire item, IPUMS staff report the universe for INCSS as being "All Persons." Users may also wish to note that in the original public use MEPS data files, no income variables have cases explicitly coded as out of universe; both persons who directly report earning zero dollars of income from a source and persons who are not explicitly asked about that income source have values of zero.


INCSS is an 8-digit numeric variable with 2 implied decimals. That is, values of 01234567 should be interpreted as 12345.67. The command files delivered with IPUMS extracts automatically divide INCSS by 100, so no further adjustment is needed.

999999.96: Not in Universe
999999.97: Unknown-refused
999999.98: Unknown-not ascertained
999999.99: Unknown-don't know


While all persons could report Social Security income regardless of age and tax filing status if they reported it as an "other" income source, certain persons were explicitly asked questions about Social Security income. The persons specifically targeted to answer these questions changes over time, with an expansion of the target population beginning in 2002. For more information on how income data were collected by MEPS and changes to the target population for these questions over time, please see the IPUMS user note on Income Data in MEPS.

Beginning to 1999, persons could only report income in full dollar amounts. Prior to 1999, persons could report income in dollars and cents.


  • 1996-2021: All persons.


  • 1996-2021