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Adding Questions on Certifications and Licenses to the Current Population Survey

Mary Dorinda Allard


While there are many sources of federal data on educational attainment, there is much more limited information on nondegree credentials, such as professional certifications and state or industry licenses. Including a small set of questions about certifications and licenses on the Current Population Survey (CPS)—the source of the labor force statistics, including the official unemployment rate, that are published every month by BLS—would add valuable information about the labor market and would enable researchers and policy makers to examine how these types of credentials affect labor market success. After a lengthy development process, three questions on certifications and licenses were added to the monthly CPS in January 2015. This paper will describe the process of developing the CPS questions, starting with the early work on question development done by the Interagency Working Group on Expanded Measures of Enrollment and Attainment (GEMEnA), which was formed late in 2009. It will then describe the work done by BLS to adapt the questions developed by GEMEnA to the CPS, the development and acceptance of a proposal to add the questions, and the fielding of the questions.