Class of Worker

Class of Worker

Mature Women Class of Worker Variables

In each survey year, respondents provided data on their class of worker status. In the 1967-92 surveys, respondents reported whether they (1) worked for a private company or an individual for wages, salary, or commission; (2) were government employees; (3) were self-employed in their own business, professional practice, or farm; or (4) were working without pay in a family business or farm.

Beginning with the 1995 survey, the categories changed; respondents were now classified as working for (1) the government, (2) a private for-profit company, (3) a nonprofit organization, or (4) a family business. A further question asked at each interview determined whether the business or professional practice is incorporated.

After 1977, the government classification includes data on whether the level of government is federal, state, or local. The reference job for these class of worker variables is usually the "current or last job"; however, during the early survey years, the reference job was the "current job."

Definitions for class of worker classifications are available in Figure MW1.

Figure MW1. Definitions of CPS Class of Worker Entries

Private Employees are those who work for wages, salary, commission, tips, piece-rates, or pay in kind. This applies regardless of the occupation at which the employee worked, whether general manager, file clerk, or porter. Includes persons working for pay for settlement houses, churches, unions, and other private nonprofit organizations.
Federal Government Employees are those who work for any branch of the Federal Government. Includes persons who were elected to paid Federal offices, civilian employees of the Armed Forces, and some members of the National Guard. Also includes employees of international organizations (e.g., United Nations) and employees of foreign governments, such as persons employed by the French Embassy or by the British Joint Services Mission.
State Government Employees are those who work for State governments and include paid State officials (including statewide JTPA [Job Training and Partnership Act] administrators), State police, and employees of State universities and colleges.
Local Government Employees are those who work for cities, towns, counties, and other local areas. Included would be city-owned bus lines, electric power companies, water and sewer service, local JTPA offices, etc. Also includes employees of public elementary and secondary schools.
Self-employed Worker refers to a person working for profit or fees in his or her own business, shop, office, or farm.
Without Pay refers to a person working without pay on a farm or in a business operated by a related member of the household. Room and board and a cash allowance are not counted as pay for these family workers.
Never Worked refers to a person looking for work who never before held a full-time job lasting two consecutive weeks or more.
Source: Interviewer's Manual: Current Population Survey. Washington, DC: Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, July 1985.

Each year, survey staff created collapsed versions of the class of worker variables combining the questions described above. These variables distinguish between (1) wage and salaried workers (including those self-employed respondents who work in an incorporated business), (2) government employees, (3) workers self-employed in unincorporated businesses or farms, and (4) those working without pay on family farms or businesses. These collapsed variables are available for all respondents regardless of current employment status; class of worker status for respondents who are unemployed or out of the labor force is derived from the last job reported.

Class of worker data are available not only for the current or last job but also, during select survey years, for one or more intervening jobs held since the date of the last interview or for dual jobs. Of related interest is the series of class of worker variables for the longest job held between/after certain life course events (school, marriage, birth of child), which was collected for select universes during the 1967 fielding of the survey.

User Notes

Employment information collected during the early survey years focused on "jobs," while later surveys centered on "employers." Users are urged to carefully consult the survey instruments and to be sensitive to the possibility that persons reporting a new job may still be with their former employer. In 1997 through 2003, self-employed respondents were not asked the same class of worker question as those who were employed in an outside organization or a family business. To obtain the total number of employed respondents, researchers should look at the variables titled "Class of Worker All.

Survey Instruments & Documentation: Questions relating to class of worker can be found in the "Current Labor Force Status," "Work Experience," or "Work History" sections of the questionnaires. The method of creating the collapsed class of worker variables is provided within the codebook.