unemployment duration before 1994 not available for basic monthly data?

Dear all,

I am surprised that in the IPUMS CPS unemployment duration in weeks (DURUNEMP) of a person reporting to be unemployed is only available from 1994 on for the basic monthly data. In the original CPS, this variable is also available before the CPS redesign in 1994 for the basic monthly data. Does somebody know something about this? Maybe there is another variable available that I am missing here …

I am actually unaware of a duration of unemployment within basic monthly samples prior to 1994. If you have some documentation on this, could you send it our way? Of course, if this data is indeed available in these samples, we’d like to make it available via IPUMS CPS.

Of course there is. In the January 1989 files this is item 22c, for example. Note that there is an important difference in the coding of this variable before/after 1994. This is explained in more detail, for example, in the appendix of Shimer (2012), “Reassessing the ins and outs of unemployment”.


It seems that the variable you are referring to in January 1989 is not the same as the variable used for DURENEMP. One difference involves the universe for the variables, since item 22C doesn’t seem to be restricted to only those who are not working. This could be addressed with some internal programming on our end. Additionally, it also seems that different people are asked different questions as a part of item 22C based on the response to A$WHYLK. The documentation does not seem to be all that clear as to how these different questions are assigned, so it would take a bit of work on our end to figure this out.

Therefore, although these variables clearly measure similar concepts, they are also quite different. That is why DURENEMP is currently only available back to 1994 in the basic monthly surveys. The IPUMS CPS team will look into the possibility of extending this variable back to pre-1994 basic monthly samples. At this point, however, I am not able to forecast when this work will be completed.