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Public assistance income


For all persons, INCWELFR reports the total income they received from public assistance sources, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or general assistance, 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, QINCWELF, which reports the editing methods used for INCWELFR.

If respondents needed more information about what types of income to report as public assistance income, they were provided with the additional guidance: "Public assistance payments include assistance payments made to low-income persons, such as temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), and general assistance." Respondents were given an additional definition of TANF: "This is a cash assistance program. TANF is known by different names in different states. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) provides assistance and work opportunities to needy families."

Information on the IPUMS defined-universe for this variable 

Users may wish to note that IPUMS defines the universe for this variable as all persons because of the family-style question associated with this income source. Family-style questions ask the family respondent if anyone in the family received income from this source. In addition to the opportunity to report public assistance income via the family-style question, 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.


INCWELFR 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 INCWELFR 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


For more information on how income data were collected by MEPS and changes to the imputation methods 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.


  • 1996-2020: All persons.


  • 1996-2020