Consistent place of work


I would like to study the evolution of the place of work versus the place of residence of individuals, over the period 1980-2010 (both included).
To achieve this goal, I would like to have a consistent geographical unit for the place of work. But, It seems that the geography of the place of work changes every decade, and that it’s not possible to create a consistent geographical unit, at a sub-state level.
Is this feasible? And if yes, how can I do It?
Thanks in advance!


Defining a consistent sub-state geographical unit of analysis is a considerable challenge. The challenge is compounded when looking at the place of work variables due to strict confidentiality restrictions that limit even identification at the PUMA level in some years.

Since you are interested in the study period from 1980 through 2010, one option is to use the PWMETRO variable, which identifies the metropolitan area in which the resident worked. The term metropolitan area broadly means the same thing over time, but the specific definition of metropolitan area and the necessary population size threshold for identifying a metropolitan area varies across years and samples. Furthermore, not all metropolitan areas in the US are identifiable in public use microdata. Although this variable is indeed limited for your purposes, it may be useful. Unfortunately, I am unaware of other sub-state consistent place of work variables in IPUMS USA identifiable from 1980 through 2010.

Alternatively, the IPUMS NHGIS project, which provides aggregated tables rather than microdata, may have what you are looking for. Again, identifying consistent geographical boundaries will be a challenge.