Income, Assets & Program Participation: An Introduction

The NLSY79 cohort is a unique source of income and asset information. Family poverty status variables are available for NLSY79 respondents. In addition, detailed information is provided on public assistance income sources, and a series of environmental variables describe the extent of family and individual poverty within the respondent's geographical area of residence. Note: By their nature, financial questions may elicit a higher number of "refusal" or don't know" responses than other questions. Starting in 2002, respondents were asked to estimate financial values when they gave an initial "refusal" or "don't know" response. For more information about these estimate variables, see Appendix 26: Non-Response to Financial Questions and Entry Points.


In many survey years, NLSY79 respondents have been asked about their savings, debt, home, and vehicle ownership. These data allow users to calculate net wealth.


Respondents are asked about income from a variety of sources and mostly these questions refer to the previous calendar year. Questions also concern transfers from both governmental and non governmental sources.

Pension Benefits and Pension Plans

Information on whether income was received by the respondent or spouse from other (unspecified) sources such as Social Security, pensions, or annuities was collected during the administration of each survey.

Poverty Status and Public Assistance Support Sources

Family poverty status variables are available for NLSY79 respondents and have been created for each survey year. The Public Assistance Support Sources section looks at poverty characteristics, the value of food stamps, and in 1998 examined effects of welfare reform.