Do Census Data Understate Retirement Income?


The brief’s key findings are:

  • Some claim that retirees are better off than many think, because Census’s Current Population Survey (CPS) does not capture most 401(k)/IRA income.
  • Indeed, the CPS dramatically under-reports 401(k)/IRA income, a serious problem given the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plans.
  • Interestingly, though, the problem is largely concentrated among upper-income households, which hold most of the 401(k)/IRA wealth.
  • As a result, the CPS currently provides a reasonably good measure of retirement income for the typical middle-income household.
  • Moreover, Census is currently testing ways to improve the CPS survey design to better incorporate all sources of retirement income.

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