A new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Surveyshows the feds aren’t getting an accurate picture of householdretirement income.

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That’s because the questions asked to measure income for those65 and older don’t completely account for the growing amount ofassets inIRAs and defined contribution plans, according to newanalysis from the EmployeeBenefit Research Institute.

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Each March, the Bureau issues its Annual Social and EconomicSupplement to update the most recent census data.

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The nonprofit EBRI’s research found that supplement oftenmisclassifies retirees’ income and generally, underreports it.

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Questions are focused on income that comes from annuity payments, like those from a definedbenefit plan.

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That means significantly less data is recorded on the incomeretirees derive from non-annuitized sources, like distributionsfrom 401(k) plans and IRAs.

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Aware of the inaccuracies, the Census Bureau revised questionsand asked them of a portion of respondents in 2014. The EBRI’sstudy examined the differences in respondents’ answers to the oldand new sets of income questions.

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“The new measure of income in the CPS finds significantly moreincome that is from IRAs and 401(k)-type retirement plans than whathas been reported under the old measure of income in CPS,” saidCraig Copeland, senior research associate at EBRI.

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Compared to the amount of total income accounted for in thetraditional set of questions, the new, revised questions resultedin an additional 9.1 percent of total annual income, or an increaseof $133 billion.

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When measuring retirement income (as opposed to all income), theimpact was even more significant, as it increased 27.9 percentunder the new questions, or $71 billion.

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While having a clearer and more accurate picture of retirees’income is not doubt valuable to policy makers, EBRI found that byan large, retirees remain largely dependent on Social Security, even when all retirementassets are accounted for.

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For 60 percent of retirees in the two lowest income quartiles,Social Security accounts for more than 90 percent of retirementincome.

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Even those retirees that fell into the second wealthiestquartile get more than 68 percent of their income from socialsecurity.

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Predictably, those with 401(k) an IRA income were more likely toreside in the upper two income quartiles, proving, yet again, thatthose Americans with access to workplace savings plans, and thosethat utilize them, have higher retirement incomes.

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Nick Thornton

Nick Thornton is a financial writer covering retirement and health care issues for BenefitsPRO and ALM Media. He greatly enjoys learning from the vast minds in the legal, academic, advisory and money management communities when covering the retirement space. He's also written on international marketing trends, financial institution risk management, defense and energy issues, the restaurant industry in New York City, surfing, cigars, rum, travel, and fishing. When not writing, he's pushing into some land or water.