1980 Occupation Coding Guidelines

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[Excerpted from Appendix K of the 1980 PUMS Technical Documentation: Bureau of the Census. Census of Population and Housing, 1980: Public-Use Microdata Samples Technical Documentation, Washington, DC, 1983. This appendix was originally published as part of the 1980 Census of Population and Housing, Users' Guide, Part B.]


The kind of work the person was doing at a job or business during the reference week or, if not at work, at the most recent job or business if employed since 1975. Persons working at more than one job were instructed to describe the one at which the person worked the most hours during the reference week. Occupation is most frequently tabulated for employed persons 16 years old and over, and less often for the experienced civilian labor force, which includes both employed and experienced unemployed 16 years old and over.

Occupation data were also collected but are not tabulated for persons not currently in the labor force who have worked since 1975. Occupation is not determined for persons in the Armed Forces. These data were collected on a sample basis.

The write-in responses to questions 29a and 29b were taken together to assign the respondent to one of 503 occupation categories, coded by specially trained industry and occupation coders in census processing offices. Only the code, i.e., none of the written-in information, is retained on census basic records and public-use microdata. Census occupation categories are fully defined in the Classified Index of Industries and Occupations, PHC80-R3. (Persons wishing to use the census system in coding other data bases may use the Alphabetical Index of Industries and Occupations, PHC80-R4).

Relation to Standard Occupational Classification.

The 503 occupation categories generally are based on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, originally issued in 1977 by the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards and revised in 1980. One of the major purposes of the SOC is to promote uniformity and comparability in the presentation of occupational data collected by various agencies. Public-use microdata documentation and other references will define the relationship between the 3-digit census codes and the revised 4-digit SOC codes.

Summary and major occupation categories are as follows:

Managerial and professional specialty occupations:
Executive, administrative, and managerial occupations
Professional specialty occupations
Technical, sales, and administrative support occupations:
Technicians and related support occupations
Sales occupations
Administrative support occupations, including clerical
Service occupations:
Private household occupations
Protective service occupations
Service occupations, except protective and household
Farming, forestry, and fishing occupations
Precision production, craft, and repair occupations
Operators, fabricators, and laborers:
Machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors
Transportation and material moving occupations
Handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers

These are the categories included in STF3 and in Census Tract reports. More detailed tabulations present subcategories within these basic groups. In the most detailed tabulations, some categories represent subdivisions of an occupation on the basis of industry or class of worker.

Historical comparability:

Occupation has been asked in each census since 1850. The 1980 occupation question differs from its 1970 counterpart primarily by omitting a request for the respondent?s job title. Because this information sometimes proved misleading, it was dropped for 1980.

The major difference in occupation data for 1970 and 1980 stems from the adaptation of census occupation coding to the new Standard Occupational Classification system, first issued in 1977. While many of the broad categories observed in the 1980 scheme have been designed to offer a general measure of compatibility with many 1970 categories, the principles governing the classification and many of the detailed categories have been altered substantially.

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