2019 ASEC Updates

In 2014, Annual Social and Economic supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS) was collected using an updated survey instrument. This new questionnaire was designed to allow better estimates of income and better assess income from retirement accounts, updated to include questions about marketplace health insurance coverage and health insurance coverage at the time of interview. In 2015, a further change to family relationship questions allowed respondents to specify whether their spouse or unmarried partner was of the same or opposite sex.

In 2019, the Census Bureau completed an overhaul of its editing procedures to take full advantage of the improvements to the survey in 2014 and 2015. In addition to making new variables available on retirement income and various types of health insurance coverage, the updated processing system also offers improved imputation methods and more detailed data quality flags.

An in-depth explanation of the 2014 ASEC survey redesign can be found here. Further discussion of these survey changes, subsequent Census Bureau data processing updates, and implications for IPUMS CPS users are discussed below.

Changes to Family Relationship Variables

Prior to 2015, respondents were only able to specify whether or not they had a spouse. Prior to 2010, these couples were edited to be opposite-sex couples; between 2010 and 2018, same-sex married couples were edited to become same-sex unmarried partners. In 2015, the survey was updated to better reflect the realities of family structure in the United States.

In 2015, family relationship questions were updated in the following ways:

Census Bureau editing procedures that refered to “husband” and “wife” and “mother” and “father” were updated to allow for same-sex couples. As parents are no longer described as mothers and fathers by the survey, the IPUMS CPS variables PELNMOM, PELNDAD, PEMOMTYP, and PEDADTYP are not available after 2018 and are replaced with PELNPAR1, PELNPAR2, PEPAR1TYP, and PEPAR2TYP in 2019. IPUMS-constructed family pointer variables have also been updated to account for these newly report-able types of relationships.

These relationship updates have implications for family units and, as a result, income and health insurance imputations and poverty estimates. For more information on the changes to relationship in the 2019 ASEC, see Changes to the Household Relationship Data in the Current Population Survey. For detailed breakdown of the effects of these processing updates on poverty measurement, see Updating the Current Population Survey Processing System and Bridging Differences in the Measurement of Poverty.

Changes to Income Questions and Processing

Improvements to the income questions in 2014 include the following:

This 2014 questionnaire redesign, coupled with a processing overhaul competed in 2019 resulted in the following improvements:

Users should be aware that, as marital status and spouse characteristics are used in income imputation models, the updates to relationship variables described above may also impact imputed income values.

For more detail on changes to income data collection and processing, see Processing Changes to Income in the CPS ASEC. More information on the use and accuracy of bracketed income responses can be found in Are Bracket Responses Accurate?

Changes to Health INsurance Coverage Questions and Processing

Beginning in 2014, collection of health insurance coverage information in the ASEC was expanded and updated in the following ways:

As with income, in order to fully leverage the redesigned survey, the health insurance section of the ASEC underwent a processing overhaul that was completed in 2019. Health insurance data processing was updated in the following ways:

For more information on changes to health insurance coverage survey questions and data processing and the effects of these changes, see Health Insurance Coverage in the 2017 CPS ASEC Research File and Health Insurance in the United States: Evaluating the Effects of Changes in the CPS ASEC.