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September 1985, Vol. 108, No. 9
New household survey and the CPS:
a look at labor force differences
In September 1984, the Bureau of the Census released initial statistics from a new household survey, the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).1 The survey, which was developed over many years, is expected to provide an indepth look at the incomes of Americans and the extent to which governmental assistance plays a part in their lives.2 This survey also includes selected information about labor force activity, because labor force activity and the receipt of certain types of income are closely related.
The Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the source of the government's statistics on labor market activity.3 It has been in existence since 1940 and is the oldest continuous household survey in the world. All other household surveys conducted by the Census Bureau, including the SIPP, are modeled after the CPS. Periodically, the labor force concepts and survey procedures used in the CPS undergo reviews by presidentially appointed commissions to ensure that the data produced continue to be as accurate and as representative of national labor market trends as possible.4 Great care is taken to see that the measures of labor market activity are consistent over time. As a result, the CPS is a key source of data for both guiding economic policy and understanding the labor market.
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1 See Economic Characteristics of Households in the United States: Third Quarter 1983, Current Population Reports, Series P-70, No. 1 (Bureau of the Census, 1984). Subsequent reports in the same series are: No. 2, February 1985; No. 3, April 1985; and No. 4, May 1985.
2 For an overview of the SIPP, see Roger Herriot and Daniel Kasprzyk, "The Survey of Income and Program Participation," Proceedings of the American Statistical Association 1984, Social Statistics Section (Washington, American Statistical Association, 1985), pp. 107-16.
3 For a history of the Current Population Survey, see John E. Bregger, "The Current Population Survey: a historical perspective and BLS' role," Monthly Labor Review, June 1984, pp. 8-14.
4 The most recent review was conducted in the late 1970's. See Counting the Labor Force, National Commission on Employment and Unemployment Statistics (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979).
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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
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