How has COVID-19 affected 2020 data collection efforts?

By Julia A. Rivera Drew, Sarah M. Flood, Renae Rodgers

IPUMS integrates data from several major US surveys that collect data throughout the year. Below, we discuss how COVID-19 has affected how US statistical agencies have collected these survey data in 2020.

Current Population Survey (CPS)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Census Bureau have continued to collect data on a monthly basis during the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing some procedural modifications to protect the safety of respondents and Census Bureau employees and adding a short supplement to capture the effects of the pandemic on work in the United States.

Changes to Interviewing Procedures

Current Population Survey (CPS) data collection for March had already begun when the Census Bureau suspended in-person data collection on March 20th, 2020. Two call centers that assist with CPS data collection also closed down at this time. However, data collection continued exclusively by phone through June of 2020. In July, in-person interviews began in some areas of the country and the call centers that had been closed in March re-opened. In-person interviews were resumed in all areas of the country in September 2020 and data collection has returned to a normal routine. More information on how alternative data collection procedures affected response rates, attrition, and employment data is available on the IPUMS CPS website.

Additional COVID-related content

The COVID-19 outbreak prompted the BLS to add five questions to the monthly CPS survey about work in the time of COVID-19. These questions were first asked in May. Though the question about foregoing medical care due to the pandemic was dropped from the survey after October of 2020, all other questions will remain in the survey until further notice. Researchers may preview the questions or access the COVID-specific variables via IPUMS CPS.

IPUMS CPS will continue to update our documentation on the effects of the pandemic on CPS data collection and to make new data available as quickly as possible. Follow @ipums on Twitter for the latest updates.

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Overview of NHIS Data Collection, 1997-2018

By Julia A. Rivera Drew, Kari C.W. Williams, and Natalie Del Ponte

The IPUMS NHIS project offers integrated versions of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data, the leading source of nationally representative information on the health of the U.S. population. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) collects the NHIS data through face-to-face interviews covering information about health, health insurance coverage, health care utilization, socioeconomic characteristics, and demographics of all household members. It is representative of the civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population with annual samples ranging between 30,000-50,000 households and 75,000-100,000 people. NCHS has collected the NHIS annually since 1957 (with digital copies of the data available going back to 1963), making it the longest running annual survey of health in the world.

Periodically, aspects of data collection – such as the sampling frame, oversampled populations, or questionnaire content – change to better capture changes in the most pressing health concerns of Americans or changes in the demographic makeup of ­­Americans and where they reside within the U.S. Most of these changes are modest, reflecting changes in U.S. population composition and distribution detected in the most recent decennial census. However, 2019 heralded the largest change in NHIS data collection since 1997. In fall 2020, the NCHS will release the 2019 public use data files, the first data collected under the newly redesigned NHIS. The upcoming release of the 2019 data warrants a look back at how NCHS collected the NHIS data over the 1997-2018 period.

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Updated variables in IPUMS CPS and IHIS ease discovery and research of same-sex and cohabiting couples


IPUMS has updated the family interrelationship variables in IPUMS CPS and the Integrated Health Interview Series (IHIS) to include same-sex and cohabiting couples. The updated variables dramatically reduce research barriers for those interested in this family and household context.

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