Geographic Residence and Environmental Characteristics

Geographic Residence and Environmental Characteristics

Environmental Characteristics

Two sets of variables have been created that provide information on characteristics of the labor market in which a respondent resided. The geographical unit used to define "residence" for the revised versions of the following variables was the 1970 Primary Sampling Unit (PSU), a geographical sampling area made up of one or more contiguous counties or Minor Civil Divisions (MCD).

Residence--Size of Labor Force: A series of revised variables provide information from the 1970 Census of Population on the size of the labor force for the respondent's current residence. The revised variables are present for the 1966-83 Older Men surveys and all Young Men interviews. The variables based on data from the 1960 Census are present only through the mid-1970s.

Residence--Unemployment Rate for Labor Market: Two series of variables provide data, drawn from the 1970 Census of Population and varying years of the Current Population Surveys, for the unemployment rate of the respondent's labor market of current residence. These variables are present for all Older Men surveys except 1968 and 1990 and for all Young Men interviews. Unemployment rates were calculated for each CPS PSU by summing the total number of unemployed for the 12-month period and dividing by the total number in the labor force. A combined unemployment rate was computed for PSUs in the same Special Labor Market Areas (combinations of two or more PSUs) and assigned to each PSU within the area. These rates were then collapsed further into broader categories.

Survey Instruments & Documentation: These geographic residence variables for the Older and Young Men were, for the most part, created by Census Bureau personnel from the permanent address information available for each respondent. Information on the birthplace of each respondent and of his parents and grandparents was collected during the initial survey year of each cohort; questions can be found in the "Family Background" section of the questionnaires. Information on the location of a current job used to construct the comparison of current residence with location of job was collected as part of the "Current Labor Force Status" sections of the questionnaire.

User Notes

The following paragraphs contain a discussion of issues affecting the availability and quality of geographic data for the Original Cohorts. Researchers are advised to read this information before using geographic variables in analyses.

The amount of geographic information that the Census Bureau has provided to CHRR has always been limited. This was, in part, the trade-off for the richness of data available in all other topical areas. Census felt that the detailed information available for each respondent in combination with the geographic location was sufficient, in some cases, to identify specific respondents. To protect respondent identities and fulfill the promise of anonymity, only gross geographic measures such as South/non-South, size of the labor force from the 1970 Census, and unemployment rate from the 1970 Census and current CPS are consistently released.

As data were analyzed based on respondents' permanent addresses, some peculiar and inconsistent results were observed. When specifications for the creation of these variables were checked, a problem with the type of address information utilized, permanent versus temporary, was uncovered. It was not clear in all cases exactly which address had been used by Census as the respondent's permanent address or which respondents had their original data based on address information from the screening as opposed to the first interview. As a result of these problems, the entire series of geographic variables were revised in the mid-1970s.

While in most instances the geographic information from the early surveys will be consistent with that in the revised series, there are sufficient instances when this will not be true. Thus, the revised series should be considered as replacing all earlier geographic information even though the unrevised information has been left on the data sets. Users will find the word "REVISED" appended to the variable titles of most of these variables; the custom of appending REVISED was continued after the mid-1970s revisions to alert users to the fact that the same methodology continued to be utilized to create subsequent years' variables. Notes that appear within the codeblock of the unrevised variables reference the appendix of the Codebook Supplement that describes the revised variables released at that point in time. It is strongly suggested that this new set of variables be used in any analysis that includes geographic mobility.

After Congress passed the Privacy Act of 1974, Census froze the definitions of NLS geographic variables in an attempt to carry out the spirit of the new law. SMSA codes assigned to the 'Residence - SMSA Status' variables were those in effect as of January 1, 1976 (Office of Management and the Budget). As time passed, these geographic variables became increasingly less useful since the information Census provided was based on definitions that did not correspond to current geographical definitions.

Due to the increasingly inaccurate boundaries and the limitations imposed by the Privacy Act, BLS and CHRR decided to restrict the set of variables that would be created to those that were known to be accurate. For the 1990 Older Men data, the following variables were no longer created: (1) 'Comparison of Current Residence with Previous SMSA,' (2) 'Residence - Size of Labor Force,' and (3) 'Residence - Unemployment Rate for Labor Market' (both Census and CPS versions). Characteristics of the respondent's local labor market were not released, nor were measures of the geographic proximity of the respondent's residence to the employer (except what can be approximated by length of travel). Also unavailable is information on whether the location of a respondent's employer is in an SMSA. Any variables reflecting SMSA status and related comparison variables were discontinued. Retained for continued release were (1) 'Residence Status (Mover),' a set of variables that had always been based on permanent address comparisons, and (2) three other variables based on definitions that had remained the same since the inception of the surveys (i.e., 'Region of Residence [Revised],' 'Comparison of Current Residence with Previous State,' and 'Comparison of Current Residence with Previous County'). These last two comparison variables never revealed the existing geographic location of the respondent, only his movement into and out of the state and/or county.


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