Codes and Frequencies
EARNINGS reports the individual's total earnings during the previous calendar year. Persons age 18 and older who had worked for pay during the previous calendar year, and, in 1997-2000 only, who reported having worked at a job or business last week (EMPSTAT) were asked, "What is your best estimate of [person's] earnings (include hourly wages, salaries, tips and commissions) before taxes and deductions from ALL jobs or businesses in [last calendar year]?" Interviewers recorded responses in non-intervalled amounts (ranging from 1 to 999,995+ dollars), but the data were recoded into 11 broad intervals in the original NHIS public use files.
Definitions of Earnings
The Field Representative's Manuals for 1997 forward provided detailed instructions for what to include and exclude as earnings. The types of income included and excluded as earnings varied across time, and several types of income included as earnings in some years were excluded in other years (e.g., Veteran's payments).
According to the Manuals, the following types of income were to be included as earnings:
- Wages and salaries including tips, commissions, Armed Forces pay and cash bonuses, as well as subsistence allowances.
- Net income from unincorporated businesses, professional practices, farms, or from rental property. ("Net" means after deducting business expenses, but before deducting personal taxes.)
- Social Security, or Supplemental Security Income.
- Retirement, disability, and survivors pensions.
- Interest and dividends.
- Cash public assistance payments (welfare), excluding food stamps.
- Veteran's payments.
- Unemployment or workman's compensation.
- Alimony and child support.
- Money regularly received from friends or relatives not living in the household.
- Other periodic money income.
The Manuals instructed interviewers to exclude the following as earnings:
- Income " in kind", such as the value of room and board, free meals in restaurants, food stamps, free or reduced rent, value of crops produced by a farmer but consumed by his/her family, etc.
- Lump sum payments of any kind, such as insurance payments, inheritances, or retirement.
- Occasional gifts of money from persons not living in the household or any exchange of money between relatives living in the same household.
- Money received from selling one's own house, car, or other personal property.
- Withdrawals of savings from banks, retirement funds, or loans.
- Tax refunds or any other refund or rebate.
- Social Security, or Supplemental Security Income
- Income from retirement, disability, and survivors pensions
- Income from interest and dividends
- Cash public assistance payments (welfare)
- Veteran's payments
- Unemployment or workman's compensation
- Alimony and child support
- Money regularly received from friends or relatives not living in the household
- Other periodic money income
Differences in universe and changes to the instructions for what to include and exclude as "earnings" limit the comparability of this variable over time. Users should note, however, that interviewers did not routinely share the instructions included in the Field Representative's Manuals with respondents.
- 1997-2000: Persons age 18+ who worked at a job or business last week, or who did not work last week but worked for pay in the last year.
- 2001-2018: Persons age 18+ who worked for pay in the last year.
- 1997-2018 : PERWEIGHT