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Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States: 1998

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Report Number P70-87


The mid-1990s were a time of strong economic growth.1 In the wake of this growth, questions arose about the extent to which all U.S. households were benefiting. How did increased national income translate into everyday lives? Were Americans better off in their homes and neighborhoods? Could they afford to buy the things they wanted and also pay for necessities? The U.S. Census Bureau asked about these issues in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).2

The living standards of U.S. households are traditionally measured by income. This report takes a different approach. It measures living standards in terms of extended measures of well-being of households tracked in the SIPP to help deepen our knowledge about household conditions in ways not captured by money alone. Some aspects of well-being, such as fear of crime or quality of local public services, are only loosely connected with money. Other measures are more closely related to income but are also affected by other factors, such as cost of living, age, disability status, and sudden changes in circumstances. Extended measures of well-being provide a fuller, more complete, and detailed picture of living conditions of households in the United States than income alone provides.

1 See U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001 (121st Edition), Washington, DC, Table 567, p. 367 and Table 647, p. 422.

2 The data in this report were collected from August through November of 1998 in the eighth wave (interview) of the 1996 Survey of Income and Program Participation. The population represented (the population universe) is the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States.


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