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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1930/31 Time Diary Data from College Educated Women in the United States

IPUMS Time Use, in partnership with Dr. Teresa Harms of the Centre for Time Use Research, is proud to announce the public release of the 1930-31 USDA College Women Time Use study. These data provide researchers a unique look into the lives of married, college-educated women at the beginning of the Great Depression. The respondents were asked to complete a detailed record of their time use for seven consecutive 24-hour periods (see a sample daily diary below; borrowed with permission from Teresa Harms, CTUR). The women described activities in their own words, listing them consecutively as they occurred throughout the day, with a minimum interval of five minutes. They also recorded the time devoted to various homemaking tasks by other household members and paid help as well as demographic and work status data and information about the household. The data also include the verbatim activity reports and the occupations the women reported at the time of data collection. All data are available via the IPUMS American Heritage Time Use Study (AHTUS) extract system.

Sample of a Time Use Diary page

In the 1920s, the United States Department of Agriculture conducted one of the very first American research studies into the daily lives and time use of rural and urban women across the country. In 1944, the USDA published a paper titled “The Time Costs of Homemaking: A Study of 1500 Rural and Urban Households“, which summarizes the findings from the 1500 whole-week diary records kept by homemakers over two periods: 1924-1928 and 1930-1931. The earlier group of 808 included both farm and non-farm households in open country or in towns and villages of fewer than 2500 people. The later records (1930-31) comprised of 692 married alumnae of the Seven Sisters (Barnard, Radcliffe, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Wellesley) from the classes of 1886 to 1929. Only 75 complete time diary surveys from this latter group of college-educated women have been located in historical archives in Kansas and Maryland. Dr. Teresa Harms assumes that the remainder of the 692 are missing, the response rate was low, or many of the records were incomplete.

Harms matched over 95 percent of the names and addresses of the records from the 75 college women to US Federal Census microdata from 1920 to 1940. Variations in the spelling of family and given names and household relocations complicated the matching process, so additional sources were employed to resolve problems of identification (including birth, death, and marriage indexes; voting registers; social security numbers; city directories; military draft records; immigration and travel docu­ments; and other material, such as obituaries and newspaper articles). Learn more about Dr. Harms’ work digitizing these data and the research that she has done with them in this video.

IPUMS ATUS data now available for online analysis

A Q&A about the new tool

By Daniel Backman, Senior Data Analyst, IPUMS

Earlier this year, the IPUMS Time Use team enabled analysis of American Time Use Survey (ATUS) data via an online data analysis tool. The Survey Documentation and Analysis (SDA) program was developed at UC Berkeley and allows users to analyze data online without a statistical package.

What data are available for analysis?

All years of ATUS data are available for online analysis. Users can choose to analyze a single year of ATUS data, or select among a number of multiple-year data files. Data from specific modules are also pooled together to facilitate analysis of ATUS module data and appropriate weights are set as defaults.

If you are familiar with ATUS data, it is important to note that the data in SDA are not in a hierarchical (or time sequence) format. As such, you are not able to create your own time use variables that summarize time use within a person through the SDA tool. However, a number of pre-fabricated time use variables are available (BLS and IPUMS summary variables as well as the ERS Eating and Health module time use variables).

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