Participants in a survey prepared for the Bureau of Labor Statistics were found to misrepresent information about their current jobs, according to findings in a newly published paper by Assistant Professor of Economics Christina Houseworth and Jonathan D. Fisher of the U.S. Census Bureau, New York Census Research Data Center.
Published in the Journal of Economic and Social Measurement, the paper, “Occupation inflation in Current Population Survey,” indicates that some respondents of the Current Population Survey (CPS) inflate their current occupation to higher skilled and higher paying jobs. The CPS is a monthly survey of households led by the Bureau of Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. CPS data is typically used by a wide variety of researchers and government agencies.
Houseworth and Fisher exploited the panel component of the CPS data to find potential errors in job classifications. The findings should serve as a cautionary example for other researchers interpreting results from survey data, Houseworth says.
“The CPS is a common data set to use when analyzing employment issues,” says Houseworth whose economic research also focuses on marriage, migration, education, and wage differentials. “It can be used as cross sectional data (used to analyze a point in time) or combined to be used as panel data (used to analyze changes over time).”
Houseworth says a large portion of her research focuses on differences in earnings between black and white women, which necessitates analyzing labor force participation, wages, and other employment characteristics, which can be done with CPS data.
Houseworth is also working on a project titled, “The Black-White Wage Gap among Women: Welfare Reform and Labor Force Participation,” which utilizes CPS data, and also wage and employment information from two other surveys: the American Community Survey and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Descriptive statistics demonstrate differences in wage and employment characteristics between the three surveys. The American Community Survey replaced the long-form Census survey.
During the fall 2013 semester at HWS, Houseworth also collaborated with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Kristen Brubaker on launching a pilot learning module in Houseworth’s statistics course. Funded by a Mellon Presidential Discretionary Grant, the project, “Teaching Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Literacy in the Social Sciences,” is designed to integrate Geographical Information Systems and spatial thinking into social science disciplines like economics, sociology, American studies, and public policy.
Houseworth joined the HWS faculty in 2012. She previously worked as a senior economist (consultant) in New York City. Her research focuses on marriage, migration, education, and wage differentials. Houseworth received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Illinois in 2007.
The photo above features Houseworth teaching a class in Stern Hall.