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COVID-19 and the Current Population Survey: Response Rates and Estimation Bias

Justin J. McIllece


The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in sudden and severe changes to data collection procedures in the monthly U.S. Current Population Survey (CPS), including the suspension of personal visit interviews starting in March 2020. Although personal visit interviewing has begun to resume, response rates during the pandemic have fallen across all eight panels in the CPS survey. The decline has been sharpest for households enrolled since collection procedures have been modified, leading to an imbalance between pre- and post-pandemic panels. This paper reviews the impact of imbalanced response rates on major labor force estimates by deconstructing CPS estimation bias into mutually exclusive, observable components.