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Summer 2007 Vol. 51, Number 2

Earnings data from BLS
What we have and how to find it

Elka Maria Torpey


CPS: Data by age, education, and other demographics

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is unique because it gathers data from individual households rather than from employers. Workers report about themselves and the people they live with. Because of this, the CPS is able to show how earnings vary by workers’ demographic characteristics, including education level, age, sex, race, Hispanic or Latino origin, and marital status.

For example, CPS data show that median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers with a bachelor’s degree were $962 in 2006, compared with $595 for high school graduates with no college courses. CPS data also are broken down by workers’ full-time or part-time status, union affiliation, and occupation and industry.

Limitations. As in the other surveys, data from the CPS are available only if the sample size is large enough—that is, if enough of the people who are surveyed fit into a particular occupation, industry, location, or demographic group. Often, data are not available by detailed occupation or for every type of worker because too few people in that occupation or of that type were surveyed.

And because the CPS relies on workers’ self-reporting or their proxy reporting—when a respondent answers questions about somebody else in the household—the earnings data that this survey collects might not be as accurate as data in other BLS surveys, which get their information from employers.

Get the data. Data from the CPS are available in quarterly news releases, the annual Employment and Earnings, and other special summaries and reports. These products are usually offered as hardcopies and online. Tables can also be customized using an online query tool. Additional data may be available by contacting the program office:

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Division of Labor Force Statistics, Suite 4675
2 Massachusetts Ave. NE.
Washington, DC 20212
(202) 691-6378

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Last Updated: February 15, 2007