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Economic News Release
CPS CPS Program Links

Employment Characteristics of Families Technical Note

Technical Note 

   The estimates in this news 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 over.

   If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 
7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services.


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

   Householder. The householder is the family reference person. This is the person
(or one of the people) 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 householder.

   Family. A family is a group of two or more people 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 people 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 news 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 people 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 people who are never 
married; widowed; divorced; separated; and married, spouse absent. Separated 
includes people with legal separations, those living apart with intentions of 
obtaining a divorce, and other people permanently or temporarily separated 
because of marital discord. Married, spouse absent, includes married people 
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 biological, step-, 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 household. Children not living in the household are also not 

   Parents. Data on parents refer to people living in a household with their
own children under age 18. (This includes those living with biological,
step-, and adopted children.)
   Employed. Employed people 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. People 
who were temporarily absent from their jobs because of illness, vacation, 
labor disputes, or another reason also are counted as employed.

   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 people 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. People 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 

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

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

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

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

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

Comparability of the estimates

   Effective with data for 2020, estimates of the number of married people
refer to those in opposite-sex and same-sex marriages. Prior to 2020, 
estimates of the number of married people referred to those in opposite-sex
marriages only. The definition of families incorporated this change by 
expanding the definition of married-couple families to include same-sex 
married couples. This new classification resulted in a larger estimate of 
the number of people who are married with a spouse present. It also resulted
in a larger estimate of the number of married-couple families and the total 
number of families. 

   In addition, the data presented in this news 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

Last Modified Date: April 24, 2024