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Economic News Release
CPS CPS Program Links

Employment Characteristics of Families Technical Note

Technical Note

   The estimates in this release are based on annual average data from the Current 
Population Survey (CPS). The CPS, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is a monthly survey of about 60,000 eligible 
households that provides information on the labor force status, demographics, and 
other characteristics of the nation's civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and

   Estimates in this news release reflect a change in the classification of persons in
same-sex marriages. In this news release, estimates of the number of married persons 
refer to those in opposite-sex and same-sex marriages. In prior news releases, 
estimates of the number of married persons referred to those in opposite-sex marriages
only. The definition of families incorporates this change by expanding the definition
of married-couple families to include same-sex married couples. This new classification
results in a larger estimate of the number of persons who are married with a spouse 
present. It also results in a larger estimate of the number of married-couple families 
and the total number of families. The 2019 estimates presented in this news release do
not match those published in the "Employment Characteristics of Families--2019" news 
release and in the BLS online database. Additional information about the classification
change is available from the Census Bureau at  

   In addition, the data presented in this release are not strictly comparable with data
for earlier years due to the introduction of updated population estimates, or controls,
used in the CPS. The population controls are updated each year in January to reflect the
latest information about population change. Additional information is available from the
BLS website at

   Upon request, the information in this release will be made available to individuals 
who are sensory impaired: Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.

Reliability of the estimates

   Statistics based on the CPS are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error. When a
sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed, there is a chance that the sample 
estimates may differ from the true population values they represent. The exact difference,
or sampling error, varies depending on the particular sample selected, and this 
variability is measured by the standard error of the estimate. There is about a 90-percent
chance, or level of confidence, that an estimate based on a sample will differ by no more
than 1.6 standard errors from the true population value because of sampling error. BLS 
analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent level of confidence.

   The CPS data also are affected by nonsampling error. Nonsampling error can occur for 
many reasons, including the failure to sample a segment of the population, inability to
obtain information for all respondents in the sample, inability or unwillingness of 
respondents to provide correct information, and errors made in the collection or 
processing of the data.

   Information about the reliability of data from the CPS and guidance on estimating 
standard errors are available at


   Definitions of the principal terms used in this release are described briefly below.

   Householder. The householder is the family reference person. This is the person (or 
one of the persons) in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented. The relationship
of other individuals in the household is defined in terms of their relationship to the 
householder. The race and Hispanic ethnicity of the family is determined by that of the

   Family. A family is a group of two or more persons residing together who are related
by birth, marriage, or adoption; all such individuals are considered members of one 
family. The count of families is for "primary" families only. A primary family consists
of a householder and all other persons related to and residing with the householder. 
Sub-families are excluded from the count of families. A sub-family is a family that does
not maintain their own household, such as a married couple living in the home of a 
friend and their family. In this example, the report would include only one family (the
householder's or primary family), not two. 

   Families include those with and without children under age 18. Families are further
categorized as follows:

   --Married-couple families refer to opposite-sex and same-sex married couples residing
     together and any of their family members residing in the household.

   --Families maintained by women or men are made up of householders residing with one 
     or more family members but no spouse of either sex present. Unmarried domestic 
     partners of either sex may or may not be present in the household.

   This release presents data for two marital status categories, defined below. Marital
status is based on a person's status at the time of the survey.

   Total married, spouse present. Married, spouse present, includes persons in either 
opposite-sex or same-sex marriages living together in the same household, even though 
one may be temporarily absent on business, on vacation, on a visit, in a hospital, or 
for other reasons.

   Other marital status. Other marital status includes persons who are never married; 
widowed; divorced; separated; and married, spouse absent. Separated includes persons 
with legal separations, those living apart with intentions of obtaining a divorce, and 
other persons permanently or temporarily separated because of marital discord. Married,
spouse absent, includes married persons living apart because either a husband or wife 
was employed and living at a considerable distance from home, was serving away from home
in the Armed Forces, had moved to another area, or had a different place of residence 
for any other reason except separation as defined above.

   Children. Data on children refer to own children under age 18 that live in the 
household. Included are sons, daughters, step-children, and adopted children of the 
husband, wife, or person maintaining the family. Not included are nieces, nephews, 
grandchildren, other related children, and all unrelated children living in the 

   Employed. Employed persons are all those who, during the survey reference week, (a) 
did any work at all as paid employees; (b) worked in their own business, profession, or 
on their own farm; or (c) worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise 
operated by a member of the family. Persons who were temporarily absent from their jobs 
because of illness, vacation, labor disputes, or another reason also are counted as 

   Full-time workers. Full-time workers are those who usually work 35 hours or more per 
week at all jobs.

   Part-time workers. Part-time workers are those who usually work fewer than 35 hours 
per week at all jobs.

   Unemployed. The unemployed are persons who had no employment during the reference week,
were available for work at that time, and had made specific efforts to find employment 
sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting
to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not be looking for work to
be classified as unemployed.

   Civilian labor force. The civilian labor force comprises all persons classified as 
employed or unemployed.

   Labor force participation rate. The labor force participation rate is the labor force 
as a percent of the population.

   Employment-population ratio. The employment-population ratio is the employed as a 
percent of the population.

   Unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is the number unemployed as a percent of the 
civilian labor force.

Table of Contents

Last Modified Date: April 21, 2021