2019 ASEC Data Now Available from IPUMS CPS

As summer turns to fall, we look forward to changing leaves, hot cider, and a fresh crop of crisp new ASEC data! This year’s ASEC comes with many changes and improvements to family relationship, income, and health insurance data. So unpack your favorite sweater, fill your favorite mug with a warm beverage, and settle in for a run-down of the new and improved 2019 ASEC.

In 2014, the Annual Social and Economic supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS) was collected using an updated survey instrument. This new questionnaire was designed to allow better estimates of income and better assess income from retirement accounts, updated to include questions about marketplace health insurance coverage and health insurance coverage at the time of interview. In 2015, a further change to family relationship questions allowed respondents to specify whether their spouse or unmarried partner was of the same or opposite sex.

In 2019, the Census Bureau completed an overhaul of its editing procedures to take full advantage of the 2014-2015 improvements to the survey. In addition to making new variables available on retirement income and various types of health insurance coverage, the updated processing system also offers improved imputation methods and more detailed data quality flags. In-depth descriptions of all of these updates and their implications for IPUMS CPS can be found here. These are the highlights!

Changes to Family Relationship Variables

Allowing the specification of same-sex spouses and unmarried partners has important implications for parental pointers and the Census Bureau’s editing process. Parents are no longer designated mothers and fathers, but as parent 1 and parent 2. To accommodate this, the IPUMS CPS variables PELNMOM, PELNDAD, PEMOMTYP, and PEDADTYP are no longer available for ASEC samples after 2018 and are replaced with PELNPAR1, PELNPAR2, PEPAR1TYP, and PEPAR2TYP in 2019. IPUMS-constructed family pointer variables have also been updated to account for these newly report-able types of relationships. Editing procedures that referred to “husband” and “wife” and “mother” and “father” were updated to allow for same-sex couples.

Changes to Income Questions and Processing

There were many changes to the income portion of the questionnaire in 2014 and the system to process those responses in 2019. These are some of the most noteworthy.

If respondents did not give a value for income received from a given source, the interviewer now follows up with a question about income ranges. Respondents who did not give a specific value were asked if they received over $60,000, between $45,000 and $60,000, or less than $45,000 from this income source. Those who replied that they earned less than $45,000 from this source were further asked if they earned more than $30,000, between $15,000 and $30,000, or less than $15,000 from this income source. These ranges are then used to impute missing values. In addition, data quality flags for these income variables now include more detail about how the values were imputed. IPUMS CPS income variables can be found here; for variables that have them, data quality flags can be found in the “Flags” tab.

Retirement income questions were redesigned to collect more accurate data. Income from retirement accounts, pension plans, and annuities are now collected via separate questions. New questions were added for interest earned from retirement accounts. The results of these updated questions are available in IPUMS CPS as SRCRET1, SRCRET2, INCRET1, INCRET2, SRCPEN1, SRCPEN2, INCPEN1, INCPEN2, INCRANN, INCRINT1, and INCRINT2.

Topcodes were increased for some income variables. IPUMS CPS variables with updated topcodes in 2019 are INCASSIST, INCDISA1, INCDISA2, INCINT, INCOTHER, INCRENT, INCSURV1, INCSURV2, INCVET, and INCRETIR.

Changes to Health Insurance Coverage Questions and Processing

The most notable change in the area of health insurance is the wealth of new variables available! These new variables fall into four categories:

  1. ACA marketplace coverage, and whether that coverage was subsidized or not. These variables begin with MRK, MRKS, and MRKU prefixes in IPUMS CPS, respectively, and are part of the IPUMS CPS ASEC Health Insurance variable group.
  2. Health insurance coverage at the time of interview. These variables have a NW suffix and are also part of the ASEC Health Insurance variable group in IPUMS CPS.
  3. Sub-annual coverage. These variables indicate whether the respondent had coverage for part or all of the previous calendar year. Relevant IPUMS CPS variables include ANYPART, PRVTPART, PUBPART, and CAIDPART.
  4. Concurrent coverage can be now found in the IPUMS CPS variable MULTCOV.

The health insurance section of the ASEC also underwent a processing overhaul that was completed in 2019.

Rather than being imputed one individual at a time, health insurance variables are now imputed as part of health insurance units and information used to fill in missing data is taken from other health insurance unit members with reported data.

Infants who were born between January and March of the survey year, and thus could not have had any type of insurance coverage during the previous calendar year, are now coded separately from those who were in the household during the previous calendar year and did not have a given type of insurance coverage. Affected IPUMS CPS variables include PRVTCOVLY, PUBCOVLY, GRPCOVLY, DPCOVLY, TRCCOVLY, VACOVLY, and INHCOVLY.

Pretty great, right? So head on over to cps.ipums.org and pick yourself a peck of brand new ASEC data!

Story by Renae Rodgers and Sarah Flood