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Class of worker

Codes and Frequencies

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CLASSWKR indicates whether a respondent was self-employed, was an employee in private industry or the public sector, was in the armed forces, or worked without pay in a family business or farm. Workers with multiple sources of employment were classified according to the job in which they worked the most hours. For persons employed at the time of the survey, CLASSWKR relates to the respondent's job during the previous week. Respondents who were not employed during the previous week reported the most recent job. The CLASSWLY variable deals with the longest job held during the previous calendar year.

In the original CPS public use data, members of the armed forces are coded as N.I.U. (Not in Universe), because they are not part of the civilian labor force.


Along with universe changes, the degree of detail included in CLASSWKR changes across years. Information is consistently available on five main classifications: self-employed; wage or salary worker in private industry; government employee; member of the armed forces; and unpaid worker in a family business. Beginning in 1988, the self-employed category distinguishes between those in incorporated and non-incorporated businesses, and the government category specifies whether the employer was the federal, state, or local government.

Comparability with IPUMS-USA

The lower age limit for CLASSWKR differs for IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-CPS in some years. The 1980, 1990, and 2000 censuses and the ACS collected employment information on persons 16 and older, while earlier enumerations used an age limit of 14 and older. The CPS used an age limit of 15 for CLASSWKR beginning in 1988 and age 14 in earlier years. Other differences between IPUMS-CPS and IPUMS-USA relate to the degree of detail in the CLASSWKR variable. The distinction between incorporated and unincorporated enterprises for self-employed persons was first made in 1970 in the census and not until 1988 in CPS. The CPS does not distinguish between wage and salary workers in private industry and those at non-profit organizations, as the 1990 and 2000 censuses and the ACS do; the two groups must be combined to achieve comparability between IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-CPS. Members of the armed forces are subsumed into the general category of federal government employees in the census, beginning in 1960, and in the ACS. The distinction between federal, state, and local government employees was initiated in the census in 1970 and in the CPS in 1988. Analysts who wish to exploit data from the full time series and combine data from IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-CPS can achieve comparability by focusing on four main classifications: self-employed persons, private wage and salary workers (including persons working for non-profit organizations), government workers (including members of the armed forces), and persons working without pay in family businesses.


  • 1962-1967 (ASEC): Persons age 14+ who ever worked (pre-1968 samples do not include persons under age 14).
  • 1968-1988: Persons age 14+ who ever worked
  • 1989+ 2017: Persons age 15+ who ever worked.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1962 – 1975 - - X - - - - - - - - - -
1976 – 2016 X X X X X X X X X X X X X
2017 X X X X X X X X X X X - -