Earning data of a spouse in ATUS

Hey IPUMS Time Use users,

I understand that SPEARNWEEK in ATUS reports the spouse’s earnings at the time of the CPS interview (not at the ATUS interview). It follows that respondents that did not have a spouse present in the household at the time of the CPS interview will have a blank value in SPEARNWEEK (99999.98) even if they did have a spouse by the time of the ATUS survey. My question is whether spouses that were present but reported 0 earnings in the CPS interview (were non-employed at the time) are also included as blank (99999.98) in the ATUS survey? Looking at the distribution of the variable (2003-2019 files) I see only 130 0 value cases, which I think is too low to include all the non-employed spouses at the time of the CPS interview.
If the non-employed spouses are indeed included in 99999.98, is there any way to distinguish between respondents that at the time of CPS survey had a non-employed spouse and those who did not have a spouse present at all? I could not find any spouse-employment variable referring to the CPS interview anywhere but I’m hoping I just missed it.

Your answer will be much appreciated and thank you for your time in any case.

If you change your data extract to include both respondents and household members as sample members when finalizing your extract (see below), the variable EMPSTAT_CPS8 will report the employment status at the time of the CPS for spouses who are included at the time of the eighth CPS interview.

I was curious about people who didn’t have a spouse at the time of the CPS based on your post, so looked into it a bit. The ATUS data user’s guide from BLS indicates that new household members will have missing data for SPEARNWEEK ( section 6.3.5: “If a new member enters the household between the time of the CPS and the ATUS interviews, there will be no CPS information about that individual. Thus, variables such as educational attainment and earnings information will not be available for these individuals.”). I did a crosstab of SPEARNWEEK and SPOUSEPRES for persons with values of 3-6 for MARST (widowed, divorced, separated, or never married-- reported at the time of the CPS interview ); unweighted counts are below. This doesn’t seem quite as straightforward as the user’s guide indicates to me, but it is possible that the difference is explained by presence in the household at the time of the CPS interview (and perhaps employment status as well). All that to say, I would encourage you to double check/be intentional about how you handle respondents whose SPOUSPRES value may indicate a change in marital status when compared to their MARST value in case this affects your results.

Kari, thank you very much, your detailed reply really helped!

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