This report presents data on the assets and liabilities held by U.S. households in 1993. The data are from the 1991 and 1992 panels of SIPP and represent information collected in February through May of 1993.1 While SIPP was designed primarily to provide estimates of income and government program participation, its asset and liability data provide additional indicators of economic well-being. These data, collected on a regular basis in a supplement to the survey, are also useful for modeling eligibility for government assistance programs.
A household’s economic well-being depends on both its income and its asset accumulation, often referred to as its wealth. While income Is the flow of resources to a household, wealth is the level of resources at any point in time. Wealth, also called net worth, is a particularly important dimension of well-being for some subgroups of the population such as the elderly, who tend to have lower retirement incomes but higher asset holdings.2
This report looks at the value of interest-earning assets, of stocks and mutual fund shares, of real estate, of mortgages held by sellers, and of motor vehicles, as well as the self reported value of own businesses or professions, held by households in the contiguous United States. The report also examines the value of measured net worth, defined as the sum of measured assets less measured liabilities such as debts secured by any asset, credit card or store bills, bank loans, and other unsecured debts.
Measuring wealth is more complex than measuring income. The market value of some assets, such as that of a home, is difficult to determine precisely, on a regular basis. The market value of other assets, such as stocks and bonds, varies over time, making point-in-time estimates of their value difficult.
1 The reference point for the asset and liability questions was the last day of the 4-month reference period that preceded the interview. As a result, the 1993 data presented in this report are an average of balances held and owed at the end of the months of January, February, March, and April 1993 and the 1991 data are the average of balances held and owed for January, February, March, and April of 1991.
2 See Daniel Radner, Measured Worth and Financial Assets of Age Groups in 1984, Social Security Bulletin, Volume 52, No. 3, March 1989, pp 2-15.