CPS versus ASEC for county-level data

I’m aware that neither CPS nor ASEC is meant to be used for county-level analysis. However, when choosing between the two, is one of them preferred? For example, the fact sheet on differences between CPS and ASEC (see link below) says that ASEC actually surveys more households. Specifically, I’m looking for data on income, demographics and healthcare coverage which ASEC seems to better represent (particularly income and healthcare)

At the same time, here is what I found around county-level analysis:

The CPS data provide reliable estimates at the state level, and for 12 of the largest metropolitan statistical areas. The sample size does not allow proper estimates to be obtained at the county level, and in fact, data are not available for most counties sampled due to confidentiality laws.

The CPS ASEC sample does not include observations for most counties. The sample design provides consistent national-level estimates, but consideration is also given to providing reliable annual state-level estimates of unemployment. Of the more than 3,100 counties in the country, about 1,300 counties are in the sample.

Differences between the CPS and the CPS ASEC.

The ASEC is the only CPS sample that has variables that deal with healthcare coverage such as PAIDGH (employer group health plan coverage), HIMCAIDLY (Medicaid coverage), HIMCARELY (Medicare coverage), and PHINSUR (private insurance coverage). However, your concern is well-placed that county-level analysis using the ASEC is difficult due to small sample sizes. The reliability of your analysis will depend on the size of the sample and the counties that you include. I suggest referring to the relevant literature for calculating confidence intervals for your statistics to get a clearer picture of the data.

Additionally, as the variable description for COUNTY notes, only 45% of households reside in a county that is identified by name. So while you can do an analysis that uses demographic and income data to predict healthcare coverage, for the majority of households you would only know their state of residence. The list of identified counties with their corresponding codes can be found here.

However, you may also be interested in the ACS (American Community Survey) that is offered through IPUMS USA. Not only are variables dealing with health insurance coverage available, but the larger sample size means that a larger portion of counties are identified.The main drawbacks of the ACS is that it’s only administered once a year and the coverage of healthcare questions is smaller than in the ASEC.

I hope this information is helpful in figuring out which datasets are best for you.

Thanks Ivan, yes this helps!