OCC reports the person's primary occupation. Respondents who held more than one job were to report the job at which they worked the largest number of hours. For persons who were employed at the time of the survey, OCC relates to the job worked during the preceding week; unemployed persons and those not currently in the labor force were to give their most recent occupation. The CPS interviewer collected information by asking what kind of work the person was doing, and Census Bureau staff coded the information into the contemporary CPS or census occupational classification. Researchers who wish to work with a consistent occupational coding scheme for 1968 forward should use the OCC1950 variable. For general discussion of employment concepts, including the definition of those not in the labor force, see the documentation on EMPSTAT.
In addition to universe changes, the coding scheme for the occupational data in the CPS changed over time. For 1962-1967, an occupational classification scheme with fewer than 40 codes was used. In 1968-1970, occupations were coded using the 1960 census classification scheme; in 1971-1982, using the 1970 census classification scheme; in 1983-1991, using the 1980 census classification scheme; in 1992-2002, using the 1990 census classification scheme; and in 2003 forward, using the 2000 census classification scheme. OCC provides the codes given in the original CPS data; OCC1950, which recodes occupations into a common format using the 1950 census classification scheme, provides comparability over time beginning in 1968.
Comparability with IPUMS-USA
Beginning in 1980, the census used age 16 as the lowest age cut-off for employment questions, with age 14 as the cut-off in earlier enumerations. The CPS used a cut-off of age 15 for OCC beginning in 1988 and age 14 in earlier years. The picture of general occupational structure given by the CPS beginning in 1968 may be different than that given by the census and the ACS, because only one-fourth of CPS respondents who were not currently in the labor force were asked about their past occupation. This limit does not apply to the census and ACS. Because the CPS is designed to measure the labor force experience of civilians, members of the armed forces were not asked this question in the Current Population Survey. Persons in the military are included in the census and ACS data on OCC.
- 1962-1967 (ASEC): Civilians age 14+ (pre-1968 samples do not include persons under age 14).
- 1968-1988: Civilians age 14+ who: were currently employed; or had previously worked and were looking for work; or were not currently in the labor force but had worked in the preceding 5 years.
- 1989-2018 2018: Civilians age 15+ who: were currently employed; or had worked previously worked and were looking for work; or were not currently in the labor force but had worked in the preceding 5 years.
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