Trends in Income Nonresponse Over Two Decades

Survey data on personal and household income is usually associated with a large amount of item nonresponse. This article focuses on trends in income nonresponse over the past two decades in the Surveys of Consumers (SCA) conducted in the U.S. SCA asks respondents first to report their income in dollar amounts with an open-ended question. Those who do not provide an answer are followed up with a closed-ended question with income brackets. Analyses indicate that missing data on income has decreased over time, and the decline is related to respondents’ overall willingness to participate in the survey and to answer survey questions once in the survey. The results suggest that, for questions on household income, there exists a trade-off between unit and item nonresponse, which may have implications for income estimates and economic modeling.