Related BLS programs | Related articles
September 1993, Vol. 116, No. 9
Overhaul of the Current Population Survey
Why is it necessary to change?
John E. Bregger and Cathryn S. Dippo
The Current Population Survey (CPS)-the most important source of information on the labor force, employment, and unemployment in the United States-is 53 years old this year. It yields perhaps the most eagerly awaited economic statistic-the monthly unemployment rate-and a host of other key data related to trends in employment. Data from this sample survey of 60,000 households across the entire Nation give policymakers, business persons, and academic analysts the key grist for their varied mills.
But the post-World War 11 years have seen vast changes in the Nation's socioeconomic life. The economy, buffeted by developments at home and on the international scene, has weathered periods of recession and shortages alternating with years of robust growth. The responses to these changes have included serious efforts to meet stiff competition in international markets; the streamlining of many industries and the loss of some; and the rapid growth of the services sector relative to the traditional goods-producing sector. On the social scene, there have been changes in the structure of, and number of workers in, American families; a massive movement of women into the labor force; the arrival of millions of immigrants from poorer nations, who must be assimilated into the society; and a general shift in the places where people work and the types of work they do.
Does the Current Population Survey, as it is currently structured and administered, allow us to fully capture the effects of these developments? The answer appears to be that it could do better. Mounting evidence of the problems prompted yet another wholesale examination of the survey, beginning in 1986. Changes to the survey as a result of that review will be implemented and tested with the introduction of a new labor force questionnaire in January 1994.
This article presents an overview of the Current Population Survey, and generally discusses the areas slated for change. Anne E. Polivka and Jennifer M. Rothgeb next address specific points of the 1994 revision in greater detail. In the final article in this issue, Chester E. Bowie, Lawrence S. Cahoon, and Elizabeth A. Martin describe the plans to assess the effects on labor force estimates of the new methodological changes to the CPS.
This excerpt is from an article published in the September 1993 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
Read abstract Download full text in PDF (533K)
Overhaul of the Current Population Survey: Evaluating changes in the estimates. September 1993.
Within Monthly Labor Review Online:
Welcome | Current Issue | Index | Subscribe | Archives
Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
BLS Home | Publications & Research Papers