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For all persons, INCWAGE reports the total income they received from wages or salary, tips, commissions, or bonuses during the current calendar year. 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, QINCWAGE, which reports the editing methods used for INCWAGE.

If respondents needed more information about what types of income to report as wage and salary income, they were provided with the additional guidance: "This includes all income from wages, salary, commissions, and bonuses and is shown in Box 2 of the tax filer's W-2 form. Tips, scholarships, fellowship grants, and dependent care benefits should also be included." INCWAGE may be edited based on round-level employment data for persons who were both working for pay and reported earning zero dollars of income.

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 wage 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 wage income). It is unclear if wage income reported as an "other" income source is counted in wage income or "other" income. Because all persons could technically report wage income via the "other" income questionnaire item, IPUMS staff report the universe for INCWAGE 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.


INCWAGE is a 9-digit numeric variable with 2 implied decimals. That is, values of 012345678 should be interpreted as 123456.78. The command files delivered with IPUMS extracts automatically divide INCWAGE by 100, so no further adjustment is needed.

9999999.96: Not in Universe
9999999.97: Unknown-refused
9999999.98: Unknown-not ascertained
9999999.99: Unknown-don't know


While all persons could report wage income regardless of age and tax filing status if they reported it as an "other" income source, certain persons were explicitly asked questions about wage 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