Jobs & Employers

Jobs & Employers

NLSY79 Employer Types

This section discusses the various types of employers about which information is collected during each survey. Incorporated within the discussion is specific information on:

  1. How the CPS employer is designated
  2. How information on the CPS job--collected during many survey years within two separate survey instruments--can be linked
  3. How a specific employer for whom a respondent has worked since the last interview can be matched to the same employer reported during a previous interview

Current or Most Recent (CPS) Employer: The NLSY79 replicates questions from the Current Population Survey, which specify the employer(s) with whom a respondent is associated at the time of the survey. A "CPS employer," or current/most recent employer, is designated for each civilian NLSY79 respondent who reported working for pay at some point since the last interview.

The methods employed to identify an employer as the CPS employer vary by interview mode. During the 1979-92 paper-and-pencil interviews, the CPS job was identified by NORC interviewers from the respondent's answer to the following open-ended question:

"For whom did you work last (week)?  IF MORE THAN ONE EMPLOYER, PROBE:  for whom did you work the most hours during the last week (you worked)?"

The actual name of the respondent's employer [for example, the Aspen Ski Company, Oliver's Saloon] is manually recorded in the questionnaire and entered on the cover page of an Employer Supplement. Because not all respondents were at work during the survey week and some were at work for more than one employer, detailed instructions on how to identify the CPS employer are provided to NORC interviewers within the round-specific Question by Question Specifications manuals. A summary of instructions from the 1996 interviewers' manual appears in Table 2.

Table 2. Instructions to Interviewers for Identifying the CPS Employer for Civilian NLSY79 Respondents: 1996

For those not at work during the survey week but who worked for pay since the last interview--the CPS employer is the most recent employer
For those who worked during the survey week:
  • for one employer--the CPS employer is the current employer
  • for two or more employers--the CPS employer is the employer for whom the respondent worked the most hours
  • for two or more employers with the same number of hours each employer--the CPS employer is the employer for whom the respondent worked the longest
For those absent from their regular job during the survey week but who were working temporarily for another employer--the CPS employer is the current employer not the employer of absence
Source: CHRR. Question by Question Specifications - Main Questionnaire - NLS Round 17 (Q6 - Q33).

Information on the CPS job has been collected during the 1980-93 survey years within the CPS section of the main questionnaire and within a single Employer Supplement for 1980-1998. Comparable information was gathered during 1979 in the "CPS" and "On Jobs" sections of the main questionnaire. A variable named, 'Is There a CPS Employer?' R41819. in 1993 for example, specifies whether there is a CPS employer for each respondent. The various types of job characteristic information collected about each CPS job/employer are discussed below. 

Beginning with the 1993 CAPI-administered interviews, the CPS job is identified by internal CAPI procedures which factor in, for civilian respondents, stop date information specific to each recorded job. Additional information on CAPI CPS-designation procedures, such as how the CAPI program handles multiple employers with the same stop date, can be found in Appendix 13: Intro to CAPI Questionnaires and Codebooks

Employers since the Last Interview--Jobs #1-#5: The "On Jobs" section of the questionnaire and the job-specific Employer Supplements, both administered during most survey years immediately after the CPS section, gather information about each employer for whom a respondent worked since the date of last interview.  A separate Employer Supplement (ES) is completed for each since-last-interview employer. Although information is collected about all employers for whom a respondent worked since the last interview, data on only the first five jobs or employers are released on the NLSY79 main data set. In each survey, the number of respondents who report more than five jobs is less than one percent of those interviewed.

In 1979, the CPS job is always Job #1. In 1980-1992, interviewers were instructed to collect information on the jobs a respondent held in reverse chronological order, with the current or most recent job first, followed by the next most recent, and so forth. This means that for most--although not all--respondents, Job #1 will be the CPS job, Job #2 could be the job held concurrently with the CPS job or immediately preceding it, and so forth. The job number to which the content of the variable refers e.g. is appended to each variable title. The mechanics used to designate the CPS job in CAPI interviews starting in 1993 results in all CPS jobs being Job #1. Before 1994, the collection of information on the CPS job within the CPS section of the main questionnaire and within a separate Employer Supplement means that researchers may find it necessary to link information collected within the two instruments or sections. The variable series that enables these data to be linked is described briefly below.  Users should note that while the data set contains only information on the first five jobs, all created variables, such as time worked during the year, are based on information on all jobs reported by the respondent.

Linking Job #1 - Job #5 to the CPS Job: During administration of each Employer Supplement, an interviewer check item determines whether the employer about whom information is being collected, for example, Job #1, is the CPS employer recorded in the CPS section of the main questionnaire. Interviewer responses to this item are found in the variable series 'Int Check - Is Job #X Same as Current Job?' Available for each survey year, these variables can be used to link information about the CPS job collected in an ES to that collected about the CPS job in the main questionnaire for survey years 1980-92.

Employers at or Prior to Date of Last Interview: In order to construct a continuous work record with each employer, information collected during the current interview is connected to data gathered about the same employer during earlier interviews. Information is updated on two sets of employers: (1) those employers for whom a respondent was actually working at the time of the last interview; and (2) those employers for whom a respondent had previously worked but for whom he or she was not working at the last interview date. Note: Information on these previous-to-last-interview employers is collected only if the respondent reports working again for that employer.

A separate interviewing aid called the Information Sheet provides NORC interviewers with a listing of the names and respective job numbers of each of these previous employers. Each set of employers is listed under a different Information Sheet item, for example, Item 05, Item 06, and so forth. Users should note that these Information Sheet item numbers are not consistently numbered across years, for example, the "at date of last interview" employers appear as Item 12 in 1980 but as Item 05 in 1991, while the "previous to date of last interview" employers appear as Item 13 in 1980 but as Item 06 in 1991. These Information Sheet item numbers are referenced within the Employer Supplement question verbatim responses and will be found in the title of each such variable, as illustrated below. Questions at the beginning of each Employer Supplement route the interviewer to the name and job number of each such employer listed on the Information Sheet in order to connect information collected during the current survey with information on that same employer gathered during an earlier interview. Employers can be linked across rounds using the PREV_EMP# variables. See Appendix 9 for more information.

Jobs Ever Reported as of Interview Date: The variable series 'Number of Jobs Ever Reported,' created for each survey year, provides a cumulative measure of the number of different employers that a respondent has reported up to the point of interview. Any employer identified as different from employers at the date of last interview and in the period before the date of last interview is counted as a different or new employer. This set of variables is created by simply counting each such employer in a current survey year and adding that sum to the total from the previous interview year in order to provide a cumulative figure through all survey years. 

Users should be aware that a small degree of double-counting of employers may exist in these variables. It is only possible to track a given employer between contiguous interview years in which information was collected on the specific employer. It is therefore conceivable that a respondent who works for a particular employer during one year, leaves that employer for the next year or more and then subsequently returns to that same employer would appear to be working for a new employer during the second tenure because the previous tenure with that employer would have slipped out of scope for tracking purposes.