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CPS family income as a percentage of the poverty line, original data, categorical


POVCAT is a categorical variable reporting family income as a percentage of the poverty line.

POVCAT uses family income and CPS family size. CPS families are defined as a group of two or more people related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together. Unlike the MEPS defined family, CPS family does not include unmarried partners or foster children.

Family income is constructed using person-level total income, comprised of: annual earnings from wages, salaries, bonuses, tips, commissions; business and farm gains and losses; unemployment and workman's compensation; interest and dividends; alimony, child support, and other private cash transfers; private pensions, IRA withdrawals, social security, and veterans payments; supplemental security income and cash welfare payments from public assistance, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and Aid to Dependent Children; gains or losses from estates, trusts, partnerships, S corporations, rent, and royalties; and a small amount of "other" income. Family income excluded tax refunds and capital gains.

Person-level income totals were then summed over family members as defined by CPSFAMID to yield the family-level total. POVCAT is constructed by dividing family income by the applicable poverty line (based on family size and composition), with the resulting percentages grouped into the following 5 categories:
1. Negative or poor (LT 100% poverty line)
2. Near poor (100-124% poverty line)
3. Low income (125-199% poverty line
4. Middle income (200-399% poverty line)
5. High income (GE 400% poverty line)

Persons missing CPSFAMID were treated as one-person families in constructing POVCAT.

Logical editing or weighted, sequential hot-deck imputation were used to impute income amounts for missing values (both for non-response and for persons in the full-year file who were not in the round where income questions were asked). Round-level data on employment status, hours worked, and wages were used to supplement earnings data collected in the Income Section.

A continuous variable POVLEV for the ratio of total family income to federal poverty line is also available beginning in 2007. An IPUMS MEPS constructed variable (POVCATCPS) offers CPS family income to poverty level ratio data in more detailed categories, for all survey years. POVLEV and POVCPSCAT calculate family income to poverty level ratios for the CPS family (excludes foster children and unmarried partners). Additionally, an IPUMS MEPS constructed variable (POVCATMEPS) is available for all survey years, and contains more detailed poverty line ratio categories for MEPS families (includes foster children and unmarried partners). POVCATCPS and POVCATMEPS are constructed from the public (edited and top-coded) versions of total individual income (summed across MEPS family), and therefore may not match POVCAT.

Codes and Frequencies

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There are no comparability issues.


  • 1996-2019: All persons.


  • 1996-2019



This variable has no flags.