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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Frequently asked questions about earnings data from the Current Population Survey (CPS)


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How much do women earn compared to men for doing the same job?

The Current Population Survey (CPS)—the source of BLS occupational earnings measures for men and women—gathers enough information from survey respondents to identify an occupational classification as defined by the Census occupational classification system. These classifications, however, are not sufficiently precise with respect to specific job skills, responsibilities, and specialization to assume that everyone categorized in a particular classification is doing the same job or comparable work. A number of the occupational classifications are in fact miscellaneous by definition.

In addition, BLS men's and women's occupational earnings measures are not simultaneously controlled for differences in important determinants of earnings such as age, educational attainment, and work experience.

In sum, BLS occupational earnings data from the CPS reflect the earnings of men and women whose jobs are included in the same occupational classification, but they should not be construed as reflecting workers with necessarily the same or comparable job, or otherwise comparable characteristics.


Why does the measure of women's earnings as a percentage of men's published by BLS differ from the measure published by the U.S. Census Bureau?

Two measures of women's earnings as a percentage of men's are widely used in the discussion of men's and women's earnings. Both come from the Current Population Survey (CPS). One measure is published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the other by the U.S. Census Bureau. BLS and Census share responsibility for the CPS, which has a scientifically selected national sample of about 60,000 eligible households representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The BLS measure of women's earnings as a percentage of men's is based on the median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers. (For data, see table 12 of the BLS report, Highlights of Women's Earnings.)

The usual weekly earnings data from BLS reflect earnings before taxes and other deductions and include overtime pay, commissions, or tips usually received. The weekly earnings estimates are developed from questions asked of one-fourth of the CPS sample each month. Full-time workers are those who usually work 35 or more hours per week. All self-employed workers, both incorporated and unincorporated, are excluded from these earnings estimates.

The BLS measure is available back to 1979.

The Census Bureau measure of women's earnings as a percentage of men's is based on the median annual earnings of year-round, full-time workers. (For data, see Census historical income table P-40.)

The annual earnings estimates from the Census Bureau include wages, salaries, and self-employment income received during the full calendar year. The annual earnings estimates are developed from questions in the Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) supplement to the CPS, conducted principally in March of each year and asked of the full survey sample. Year-round, full-time workers are those who worked 50 or more weeks during the previous calendar year and 35 or more hours per week during a majority of the weeks worked.

The Census Bureau measure is available back to 1960.

Neither the BLS nor the Census Bureau measure is a controlled comparison of men's and women's earnings; that is, these measures do not control for factors such as occupation, education, and work experience that can be significant in explaining earnings differences. Hence, neither measure should be construed as a comparison of workers with comparable jobs or other characteristics.


Where can I find men's and women's earnings data for states, cities, and counties?

From the Current Population Survey (CPS), BLS publishes median weekly earnings for men and women who work full time at the state level. (For data, see table 3 of the BLS report, Highlights of Women's Earnings.)

BLS does not tabulate occupational earnings for men and women at the state level, nor does BLS tabulate men's and women's earnings for any geographic areas below the state level.

For those interested in occupational earnings data for men and women at the state, city, and county level, the U.S. Census Bureau produces such information in its Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation produced from the American Community Survey (ACS).


How many female corporate executives are there and what are their earnings?

From the Current Population Survey (CPS), BLS annually publishes employment and median weekly earnings estimates for men and women by occupation.

Since 2003, the occupational classification system used for the CPS has included a "chief executives" classification. Data users should be aware, however, that this classification is not restricted to the private sector, and includes a number of jobs that fall outside the general definition of corporate executive: for example, school superintendents, college presidents, and government executives such as governors, mayors, and city managers.


Last Modified Date: June 28, 2018