EMPSAME Response for Missing Months

I am using the EMPSAME variable which asks if your employer is the same this month as the previous month. From this wording, my understanding is that if someone doesn’t answer the survey in one month, then EMPSAME should be missing the following month. However, I have found a few thousand people who do not have an observation for the previous month’s survey, but still answer “no” to EMPSAME indicating they have switched employers. For example, someone who has an observation in MIS = 4 and one in MIS = 6 but MIS = 5 is missing. However, for MIS = 6, EMPSAME is not missing. Is this a mistake? IF not, which employer are they referring to when they ask if the person has switched employers, the employer in MIS = 4?

Sorry for the delayed reply, your message slipped through the cracks.

This is a known issue and unfortunately we don’t have a solution or explanation for this issue. The CPS interviewer’s manual (page 6, section 4E) states that for the suite of occupation questions EMPSAME belongs to, a respondent must have been employed in the previous month and that month’s data must have been codable. The wording of the questionnaire echoes this (page 21, IODP1). So the documentation is very much in conflict with what we’re seeing. While proxy responses are allowed, that should not be a factor here because these kinds of responses have no data for the previous month.

The IPUMS CPS team looked at 2006-2009 and found (among respondents who started and ended the survey in that four year window) 7,413 such cases. So while this isn’t frequent, it isn’t an isolated issue either. Though the team is not 100% confident that these are errors, they also cannot find a reason for their inclusion.