Obtaining spouse/partner earnings from CPS

Hi, following up on https://forum.ipums.org/t/earning-data-of-a-spouse-in-atus/3763, is there a way to get the spouse/partner’s earnings from CPS? I’m wondering if I can use those to fill in SPEARNWEEK for those cases where partner earnings weren’t updated at ATUS, it’s a large prop. of my sample. Thanks much, SG

The Blank code (99999.98) is used for SPEARNWEEK in cases where there is no data on the spouse’s earnings. The ATUS interview does not ask about the respondent’s spouse’s earnings, but only their employment status and usual working hours. The data for this variable instead comes from responses to the final Current Population Survey (CPS) interview. ATUS respondents are a subset of CPS respondents and are interviewed 2-5 months following their final CPS interview (read more about the CPS rotation pattern here). In order to decrease response burden, some questions that were already asked as part of the CPS are not asked in the ATUS interview. For example, ATUS respondents are only asked about their weekly earnings when there is evidence that the respondent’s job changed, when the respondent went from not employed to employed, or if the CPS weekly earnings value was imputed. Otherwise, the value that was recorded in the CPS interview (in EARNWEEK) is used.

ATUS respondents are never asked about their spouse’s weekly earnings, which are instead always inferred from the spouse’s value for EARNWEEK. As a result, any time EARNWEEK is unavailable for a respondent’s spouse, SPEARNWEEK will be allocated to Blank (99999.98). The Universe tab for EARNWEEK notes that only employed civilians who are not self-employed are in-universe for this variable. The vast majority of cases of SPEARNWEEK = 99999.98 therefore refer to spouses who were either not employed or self-employed at the time of the final CPS interview. Additional cases include those where the ATUS respondent did not have a spouse in the household at the time of the final CPS interview, but does by the time of the ATUS interview (respondents with no spouses in the household at the time of the ATUS interview will have SPEARNWEEK = 99999.99).

As I mentioned previously, the spouse’s employment status and usual working hours are typically asked as part of the ATUS interview. This results in a temporal mismatch between SPEMPNOT and SPEARNWEEK. The cases that you are finding are spouses who either became employed between the two interviews or continued to be self-employed (thus not having any earnings data, but still employed according to SPEMPNOT).

You might be interested in linking ATUS respondents to their final CPS interview in order to investigate this pattern further. To do so, you will need to create an IPUMS ATUS extract that includes CPSIDP, a variable that uniquely identifies individuals across ATUS and CPS samples. You will then want to create a data extract on IPUMS CPS that includes respondents from your ATUS sample, adding variables of interest such as EARNWEEK and using the attach characteristics tool to add the spouse’s values for these as an additional variable (see this FAQ question as well as this video tutorial for reference). The ATUS interview takes place 2-5 months following the final CPS interview and a subsample of CPS respondents are interviewed for the ATUS throughout the year (i.e., 2022 ATUS respondents should have had their final CPS interview month within the period from August 2021-October 2022). You can find the month and year of the final CPS interview for ATUS respondents in the variables MONTH_CPS8 and YEAR_CPS8. Once you have both IPUMS ATUS and IPUMS CPS extracts, you can merge records between the two using CPSIDP and observe the respondent’s spouse’s data. Note that since weekly earnings are only asked in the fourth and eighth monthly interviews of the CPS (reported in the IPUMS CPS variable MISH), you will want to merge data from one of these periods.

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Thanks very much for that comprehensive response, greatly appreciated.