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Dataset: Current Population Survey (CPS)

Basic Information
Dataset Full Name Current Population Survey
Dataset Acronym CPS

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to provide workforce measurements including employment, unemployment, earnings, and hours of work. It collects a variety of demographic characteristics including age, sex, race, marital status, and educational attainment, as well as occupation and industry of employment. Supplemental questionnaires are occasionally fielded to produce estimates on various topics including school enrollment, income, previous work experience, health, employee benefits, and work schedules. A disability supplement was fielded in May 2012.

A work limitation disability screener question was first included in 1981 in the March Supplement. A variation on the ACS six-question disability sequence was added in June 2008. The 2014 redesign of the March Supplement included a rephrasing of the work limitation disability question that will be used going forward.

Key Terms Nationally Representative, Household Population, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, U.S. Census Bureau, Survey, Employment
Study Design Longitudinal
Data Type(s) Survey
Sponsoring Agency/Entity Jointly sponsored by the U.S. Census Bureau & Department of Labor (DOL)
Health Conditions/Disability Measures
Health Condition(s) NA
Disability Measures

ACS 6 question disability series: Ambulatory disability, Cognitive disability, Hearing disability, Independent living disability, Self-care disability, Visual disability

Work limitation

Measures/Outcomes of Interest
Topics Employment, Labor force activity, Earnings
Sample Population

Household population (civilian noninstitutional population 15 years of age and older)

Sample Size/Notes 60,000 households (monthly)
Unit of Observation Individual
Continent(s) North America

United States

Geographic Coverage United States
Geographic Specificity State and 12 of the largest metropolitan statistical areas
Data Collection
Data Collection Mode Survey
Years Collected 1940-current
Data Collection Frequency

Monthly (Basic Monthly Survey) Annual (March Supplement)

Variable (topical supplements)

Strengths and Limitations
Strengths Current data (collected and released on a monthly basis). Detailed employment questions and a relatively large survey sample. Various topical supplemental surveys are fielded, including a disability supplement in May 2012. The March Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement includes detailed income data and a work limitation question -- the longest running disability-related question available in U.S. data. In 2014, the ASEC health insurance questions were redesigned, including a rephrasing of the work limitation item going forward.
Limitations No health measures. Some question the use of the work limitation screener question as a disability identifier. A six-item disability sequence, similar to ACS sequence, is included from June 2008 onwards. Note that with the 2014 ASEC redesign, the phrasing of the work limitation item changed from: “Q59A. (Do you/Does anyone in the household) have a health problem or disability which prevents (you/them) from working or which limits the kind or amount of work (you/they) can do?” to "Q59AR. At any time in PRIOR_YEAR (did you/did anyone in the household) have a disability or health problem which prevented (you/them) from working, even for a short time, or which limited the work (you/they) could do?” The 2014 rewording causes a break in the work limitation time series; the current variable cannot be compared with its original form in previous years.
Data Details
Primary Website

U.S. Census Bureau:

Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Data Access 

Data Access Requirements Public Use Dataset
Summary Tables/Reports

Disability employment data tables:

Data Components

Basic Monthly CPS

March Supplement.

Supplemental Surveys

Similar/Related Dataset(s)

Current Population Survey - Disability Supplement (CPS - Disability Supplement)

Selected Papers
Other Papers

Overview of the CPS ASEC and its traditional work limitation question (prior to 2014 redesign):

Burkhauser, R. V., & Houtenville, A. J. (2006, September). A Guide to Disability Statistics from the Current Population Survey - Annual Social and Economic Supplement (March CPS):

Disability Labor Force Statistics:


U.S. Census Bureau: Methodology:

Publications, working papers, and infographics: 

2014 Redesign: 

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Publications

Technical Documentation

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The Rehabilitation Research Cross-dataset Variable Catalog has been developed through the Center for Large Data Research & Data Sharing in Rehabilitation (CLDR). The Center for Large Data Research and Data Sharing in Rehabilitation involves a consortium of investigators from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Cornell University's Yang Tan Institute (YTI), and the University of Michigan. The CLDR is funded by NIH - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, through the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. (P2CHD065702).

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Acknowledgements: This tool was developed through the efforts of William Erickson and Arun Karpur, and web designers Jason Criss and Jeff Trondsen at Cornell University. Many thanks to graduate students Kyoung Jo Oh and Yeong Joon Yoon who developed much of the content used in this tool.

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