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About Well Being

This section provides detailed information and statistics on Well-Being and related subtopics. Find the latest news, data, publications, and other content that may include related sites, surveys/programs, videos, visualizations, and working papers.

The living standards of U.S. households are traditionally measured by income. However, income is not the only measure available. Extended measures of well-being 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, may be only loosely connected with money. Other measures are more closely related to income but can also be affected by factors such as the cost of living, age, disability status, and sudden changes in circumstances. Extended measures of well-being provide a more complete and detailed picture of household living conditions in the United States than income alone provides.

The U.S. Census Bureau tracks extended measures of well-being in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Data are collected using a group of questions called a topical module. The Extended Measures of Well-Being topical module, also known as Adult Well-Being, covers five broad domains:

  1. Appliances and electronic goods, such as possession of refrigerators, landline and cellular telephones, and computer;
  2. Housing conditions, including level of satisfaction with overall home repair, adequate living space, and sufficient privacy;
  3. Neighborhood conditions and community services, such as: road conditions and the presence of abandoned buildings; satisfactory police, fire, and medical services; and attitudes towards local schools;
  4. Meeting basic needs, including the ability to pay bills in full, to avoid eviction, and to have sufficient food; and
  5. The expectation of help, should need arise, from friends, family, and the community.

The Extended Measures of Well-Being topical module was administered in Wave 6 of the SIPP 1991 Panel, Wave 3 of the 1993 Panel, Wave 8 of the 1996 Panel, Wave 5 of the 2001 Panel, and Wave 5 of the 2004 Panel. The closely-related "Basic Needs" Topical Module was administered in Wave 9 of the 1993 Panel. Please note in discussions of these data in the Census Bureau and elsewhere, the terms "material well-being" and "material hardship" have also been used to describe some or all of the data in this topical module. There is no clear distinction among these terms.

While the Extended Measures of Well-Being topical module examines data for adults, the SIPP also collects data about children's well-being. Indicators of children's well-being are used to take a closer account of how well children progress to adulthood and include measures of cognitive development, social interactions, health, and successful completion of school. For more information on children's well-being, go to the Children's website.


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