Data dictionary

Different researchers and practitioners define data differently. This can lead to confusion over who and what is included in the data, as well as inaccurate conclusions. The Sourcebook data dictionary provides a list of commonly used terms and a consistent definition of that term.


  • Area median income (AMI) is the midpoint of a region’s income distribution (i.e., half the households in a region earn more than that figure while the other half make less). AMI is used frequently as a benchmark to set income limits in housing policy. HUD sets different AMI levels based on different geographic areas and household sizes.
  • Cost-burdened refers to a household that spends more than 30 percent of their gross household income on housing costs, including utilities. For greater nuance, a household that spends more than 50 percent is severely cost-burdened.
  • Home(s) refers to what the U.S. Census Bureau defines as “housing units.” A housing unit is a house, apartment, a group of rooms, or a single room occupied or intended for occupancy as separate living quarters.
  • Household refers to all individuals that reside under a single roof. A household typically comprises a family, but can include non-related individuals that live together.
  • Householder refers to the primary individual owning or renting a home. This individual may be either spouse if the household consists of a married couple.
  • Manufactured home refers to a factory-built home that is fully built on a chassis. These homes are built to meet standards promulgated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (the “HUD Code”).
  • Modular home (or a prefabricated home) is a home that is built to near completion (typically 80 to 90 percent) and then transported to a location and fully assembled on site. These homes are built to state and local building codes.


  • Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) is a term used to describe working households that are not technically in poverty, but are unable to afford all the basic necessities like housing, food, and health care.
  • Extremely low-income (ELI) households are households that earn 30 percent of AMI or below.
  • Low-income (LI) households are households that earn between 51 and 80 percent AMI.
  • Very low-income (VLI) households are households that earn between 31 and 50 percent AMI.

Race and ethnicity

When referring to a specific race, that race is non-Hispanic. For example, Black households are specifically Black, non-Hispanic households, unless specified otherwise.

  • Another race most often refers to the U.S. Census Bureau’s category of “Some Other Race,” which includes all responses not included in the white, Non-Hispanic, Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander categories. For visual clarity, we often aggregate American Indian and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander—a small proportion of the data—into the “Another race” category.
  • Hispanic is referred to throughout this study in place of “Hispanic or Latino.” Hispanic and Latino are both pan-ethnic terms used to describe people living in the United States who identify as being from Spain or from Spanish-speaking countries and from Latin American countries regardless of language. We recognize that there are distinctions between the two terms; however, for the sake of brevity and consistency we use the term Hispanic.
  • Multiracial refers to the U.S. Census Bureau’s category of “Two or More Races.”
  • White, non-Hispanic refers to individuals who do not identify as Hispanic or Latino and who have reported their race as “white” only.

The data contained in Sourcebook is intended for informational, educational and research uses. The information may not be used for commercial purposes or re-marketed. Any reproduction and distribution of this information must clearly identify HousingForward Virginia and Sourcebook as the provider of the information.

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