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Welfare (public assistance) income


999999 = N.I.U. (Not in Universe).

The Census Bureau applies different disclosure avoidance measures across time for individuals with high income in this variable. Detailed explanations of these methods, topcodes, and replacement value and swap value thresholds are available here.


INCWELFR indicates how much pre-tax income (if any) the respondent received during the previous calendar year from various public assistance programs commonly referred to as "welfare."

Totals are given as they were reported to CPS interviewers; users must adjust for the effects of inflation using Consumer Price Index adjustment factors.


Along with the effects of inflation and shifts in the variable universe, INCWELFR was affected by changes in question wording and the income sources included.

The degree of detail about sources of public assistance included on the questionnaire changed over time, and the presence or absence of specific prompts may affect the completeness of reporting. In 1968-1974, the INCWELFR variable includes aid to families with dependent children (AFDC), old age assistance, and aid to the blind or totally disabled. From 1975-1979, it includes "money from public assistance or welfare from the state or local welfare office" and "aid to families with dependent children, or other assistance." From 1980-1994, the question simply focused on money "from public assistance or welfare." Beginning in 1995, the categories of welfare assistance specifically mentioned on the questionnaire were the following: AFDC, Aid to Dependent Children (ADC), General Assistance Program, Emergency Assistance, Cuban/Haitian Refugee and Indian Assistance, while Food Stamps and SSI payments were specifically excluded.

Beginning in 1988, persons who reported a disability that limited the type or amount of work they could do or who said they had left a job or retired due to a disability were asked if they received income as a result of a health problem, handicap, or disability (other than income from SSI and VA benefits). Some of these categories of income due to disability were probably reported under INCWELFR prior to 1988; See INCDISAB for further discussion.

Beginning in 1976, information on income from federal/state supplemental security income (SSI) payments to elderly (age 65+), blind, or disabled persons with low incomes is included in the INCSSI variable. Researchers should combine INCSSI with INCWELFR to achieve comparability in welfare income before and after 1976.

Up through 1994, respondents reported a single figure for welfare income for the preceding calendar year. Beginning in 1995, they could report the amount received for smaller time intervals, such as weekly, bi-weekly, twice monthly, or monthly payments, and the number of payments received. This change in the questionnaire format probably resulted in more exact reporting for 1995 forward.

For 1962-1967, the value of income from welfare is subsumed in the INCUNERN variable, which encompasses all income from sources other than wages and salaries (INCWAGE), non-farm businesses (INCBUS), and farms (INCFARM).

Comparability with IPUMS-USA

INCWELFR was included in the census beginning in 1970, and in the CPS beginning in 1968. The lower age limit for respondents was 14+ in the 1970 census and in the CPS up through 1979; this rose to age 15+ for the 1980 census and the 1980 CPS. As noted above, income from supplemental security income (SSI) was reported separately in the CPS beginning in 1988. In census 2000, SSI income (INCSUPP) was separated from other public assistance income (INCWELFR). To achieve comparability between IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-CPS on the INCWELFR variable, analysts should sum the values for INCWELFR and INCSSI in IPUMS-CPS for years prior to 2000.


  • 1968-1979: Persons age 14+.
  • 1980+: Persons age 15+.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1968 – 2023 - - X - - - - - - - - -