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Family income as a percentage of the poverty line, continuous


POVLEV is a continuous measure of the ratio of total family income (excluding capital gains and tax refunds) to the federal poverty line. AHRQ staff constructed POVLEV primarily from data collected in the Income section of the MEPS questionnaire, by dividing CPS family income by the applicable poverty line (based on family size and composition).

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, the CPS family definition does not include unmarried partners or foster children.

Family income was constructed by first creating person-level total income, comprising annual earnings from wages, salaries, bonuses, tips, and commissions (INCWAGE); business and farm gains and losses (INCBUS); unemployment (INCUNEMP) and workers' compensation (INCWKCOM); interest (INCINT) and dividends (INCDIVID); alimony (INCALIM), child support (INCCHLD), and other private cash transfers (INCCASH); private pensions (INCRETIR), IRA withdrawals (INCIRA), social security (INCSS), and veterans payments (INCVET); supplemental security income (INCSSI) and cash welfare payments from public assistance, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and Aid to Dependent Children (INCWELFR); gains or losses from estates, trusts, partnerships, S corporations, rent, and royalties (INCPROP and INCTRST); and a small amount of "other" income (INCOTH). 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. Persons missing CPSFAMID were treated as one-person families in constructing POVLEV.

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 categorical variable POVCAT for the ratio of total family income to federal poverty line is also available in all survey years. Two categorical IPUMS MEPS constructed variables are also available. (POVCATCPS) and (POVCATMEPS) offer family income to poverty level ratio data in more detailed categories, for all survey years. POVCAT and POVCPSCAT calculate family income to poverty level ratios for the CPS family (excludes foster children and unmarried partners). POVCATMEPS uses 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.

POVLEV is 11 columns wide with 6 implied decimals. Because POVLEV includes sources of income that can result in net losses, such as business income, there are a small number of legitimate negative values of POVLEV.


There are no comparability issues.


  • 2007-2021: All persons.


  • 2007-2021



This variable has no flags.