Change in health care occupations in 2014?

I’m studying nursing occupations in the ACS and noticed a fairly increase in the occupation code 3500 (licensed practical nurses and vocational nurses) and a corresponding decrease in the occupation code 3600 (Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home Health Aides) in the same year (2014) but can’t find any occupation coding changes in that year. I’ve plotted counts in the ACS samples from 2005-2017 below. To me this looks like the coding was changed so that some people who would have been coded in 3600 were coded in 3500 beginning in 2014, but want to confirm. Thanks a lot!

I’ve looked into this in some detail, and I can’t find any clear explanation. I’ve also run this by folks on the IPUMS USA team but nobody had an explanation, though it doesn’t appear to be an issue originating with IPUMS but rather the original public-use files from the Census Bureau. Our best guess is that the coding procedure (moving from the written occupation reported on the ACS form to an occupation code) changed in some way in 2014. I think your best bet is to reach out to the Census Bureau directly with this question.

Thanks Matthew for looking into it!! I will contact the Census Bureau and update this thread if I get a response. Thanks again.

I just stumbled onto this User Note from the Census Bureau:

It states:

In 2014, the editing procedures used to evaluate data consistency and allocate missing values for occupation, industry, and class of worker data were modernized. Improvements include updates to data consistency and allocation rules to accurately reflect occupation, industry, and class of worker requirements, the retention of more as-reported data, and improved educational attainment restrictions.

The improvements to these procedures contributed to changes in some occupational categories including managers, buyers and purchasers, scientists and science technicians, physician assistants, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides, supervisors of gaming and personal service workers, file clerks, mining machine operators, and automotive and watercraft service attendants. Industries affected include other health care services and home health care services.

Thanks Matthew! Yes, this looks like the issue, and the Census got back to me yesterday to also send me this note. Unfortunately, I’ve also been trying to compare the estimates from the ACS of nursing assistants and personal care aides to estimates in the OES and am getting vastly different trends (in the ACS, these occupations flatten out around 2010, while in the OES, they add almost 1 million jobs over the same time period), and the most relevant industry appears to be the “individual and family services” industry. So I am still working on trying to figure this out, but it is good to know that there were some data changes!