Industry, Occupation, and Class of Worker In the 1990 Public Use Microdata Samples

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[Excerpted from "Appendix B: Definitions of Subject Characteristics," in Census of Population and Housing, 1990: Public Use Microdata Samples U.S., prepared by the Bureau of the Census. Washington: The Bureau (producer and distributor), 1992, pp. B-19-B-2.]


The data on industry, occupation, and class of worker were derived from answers to questionnaire items 28, 29, and 30 respectively. These questions were asked of a sample of persons. Information on industry relates to the kind of business conducted by a person's employing organization; occupation describes the kind of work the person does on the job.

For employed persons, the data refer to the person's job during the reference week. For those who worked at two or more jobs, the data refer to the job at which the person worked the greatest number of hours. For unemployed persons, the data refer to their last job. The industry and occupation statistics are derived from the detailed classification systems developed for the 1990 census as described below. The Classified Index of Industries and Occupations provided additional information on the industry and occupation classification systems.

Respondents provided the data for the tabulations by writing on the questionnaires descriptions of their industry and occupation. These descriptions were keyed and passed through automated coding software which assigned a portion of the written entries to categories in the classification system. The automated system assigned codes to 59 percent of the industry entries and 38 percent of the occupation entries.

Those cases not coded by the computer were referred to clerical staff in the Census Bureau's Kansas City processing office for coding. The clerical staff converted the written questionnaire descriptions to codes by comparing these descriptions to entries in the Alphabetical Index of Industries and Occupations. For the industry code, these coders also referred to an Employer Name List (formerly called Company Name List). This list, prepared from the Standard Statistical Establishment List developed by the Census Bureau for the economic censuses and surveys, contained the names of business establishments and their Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes converted to population census equivalents. This list facilitated coding and maintained industrial classification comparability.


The industry classification system developed for the 1990 census consists of 235 categories for employed persons, classified into 13 major industry groups. Since 1940, the industrial classification has been based on the Standard Industrial Classification Manual (SIC). The 1990 census classification was developed from the 1987 SIC published by the Office of Management and Budget Executive Office of the President.

The SIC was designed primarily to classify establishments by the type of industrial activity in which they were engaged However, census data, which were collected from households, differ in detail and nature from those obtained from establishment surveys. Therefore, the census classification systems, while defined in SIC terms, cannot reflect the full detail in all categories. There are several levels of industrial classification found in census products. For example, the 1990 CP-2, Social and Economic Characteristics report includes 41 unique industrial categories, while the 1990 Summary Tape File 4 (STF 4) presents 72 categories.


The occupational classification system developed for the 1990 census consists of 500 specific occupational categories for employed persons arranged into 6 summary and 13 major occupational groups. This classification was developed to be consistent with the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Manual: 1980, published by the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards, U.S. Department of Commerce. Tabulations with occupation as the primary characteristic present several levels of occupational detail. The most detailed tabulations are shown in a special 1990 subject report and tape files on occupation. These products contain all 500 occupational categories plus industry or class of worker subgroupings of occupational categories.

Some occupation groups are related closely to certain industries. Operators of transportation equipment, farm operators and workers, and private household workers account for major portions of their respective industries of transportation, agriculture, and private households. However, the industry categories include persons in other occupations. For example, persons employed in agriculture include truck drivers and bookkeepers; persons employed in the transportation industry include mechanics, freight handlers, and payroll clerks; and persons employed in the private household industry include occupations such as chauffeur, gardener, and secretary.

Class of Worker

The data on class of worker were derived from answers to questionnaire item 30. The information on class of worker refers to the same job as a respondent's industry and occupation and categorizes persons according to the type of ownership of the employing organization. The class of worker categories are defined as follows:

Private Wage and Salary Workers -- Includes persons who worked for wages, salary, commission, tips, pay-in-kind, or piece rates for a private for profit employer or a private not-for-profit, tax-exempt or charitable organization. Self-employed persons whose business was incorporated are included with private wage and salary workers because they are paid employees of their own companies. Some tabulations present data separately for these subcategories: "For profit," "Not for profit," and "Own business incorporated."

Employees of foreign governments, the United Nations, or other formal international organizations were classified as "Private-not-for-profit."

Government Workers -- Includes persons who were employees of any local, State, or Federal governmental unit, regardless of the activity of the particular agency. For some tabulations, the data were presented separately for the three levels of government.

Self-Employed Workers -- Includes persons who worked for profit or fees in their own unincorporated business, profession, or trade, or who operated a farm.

Unpaid Family Workers -- Includes persons who worked 15 hours or more without pay in a business or on a farm operated by a relative.

Salaried/Self-Employed -- In tabulations that categorize persons as either salaried or self-employed, the salaried category includes private and government wage and salary workers; self-employed includes self-employed persons and unpaid family workers.

The industry category, "Public administration," is limited to regular government functions such as legislative, judicial, administrative, and regulatory activities of governments. Other government organizations such as schools, hospitals, liquor stores, and bus lines are classified by industry according to the activity in which they are engaged. On the other hand, the class of worker government categories include all government workers.

Occasionally respondents supplied industry, occupation, or class of worker descriptions which were not sufficiently specific for precise classification or did not report on these items at all. Some of these cases were corrected through the field editing process and during the coding and tabulation operations. In the coding operation, certain types of incomplete entries were corrected using the Alphabetical Index of Industries and Occupations. For example, it was possible in certain situations to assign an industry code based on the occupation reported.

Following the coding operations, there was a computer edit and an allocation process. The edit first determined whether a respondent was in the universe which required an industry and occupation code. The codes for the three items (industry, occupation, and class of worker) were checked to ensure they were valid and were edited for their relation to each other. Invalid and inconsistent codes were either blanked or changed to a consistent code.

If one or more of the three codes were blank after the edit, a code was assigned from a "similar" person based on other items such as age, sex, education, farm or nonfarm residence, and weeks worked. If all the labor force and income data also were blank, all these economic items were assigned from one other person who provided all the necessary data.


Comparability of industry and occupation data was affected by a number of factors, primarily the systems used to classify the questionnaire responses. For both the industry and occupation classification systems, the basic structures were generally the same from 1940 to 1970, but changes in the individual categories limited comparability of the data from one census to another. These changes were needed to recognize the "birth" of new industries and occupations, the "death" of others, and the growth and decline in existing industries and occupations, as well as the desire of analysts and other users for more detail in the presentation of the data. Probably the greatest cause of incomparability is the movement of a segment of a category to a different category in the next census. Changes in the nature of jobs and respondent terminology, and refinement of category composition made these movements necessary.

In the 1990 census, the industry classification had minor revisions to reflect recent changes to the SIC. The 1990 occupational classification system is essentially the same as that for the 1980 census. However, the conversion of the census classification to the SOC in 1980 meant that the 1990 classification system was less comparable to the classifications used prior to the 1980 census.

Other factors that affected data comparability included the universe to which the data referred (in 1970, the age cutoff for labor force was changed from 14 years to 16 years); how the industry and occupation questions were worded on the questionnaire (for example, important changes were made in 1970); improvements in the coding procedures (the Employer Name List technique was introduced in 1960); and how the "not reported" cases are handled. Prior to 1970, they were placed in the residual categories, "Industry not reported" and "Occupation not reported." In 1970, an allocation process was introduced that assigned these cases to major groups. In 1990, as in 1980, the "Not reported" cases were assigned to individual categories. Therefore, the 1980 and 1990 data for individual categories included some numbers of persons who were tabulated in a "Not reported" category in previous censuses.

The following publications contain information on the various factors affecting comparability and are particularly useful for understanding differences in the occupation and industry information from earlier censuses: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Changes Between the 1950 and 1960 Occupation and Industry Classifications With Detailed Adjustments of 1950 Data to the 1960 Classifications, Technical Paper No. 18, 1968; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1970 Occupation and Industry Classification Systems in Terms of their 1960 Occupation and Industry Elements, Technical Paper No. 26, 1972; and U.S. Bureau of the Census, The Relationship Between the 1970 and 1980 Industry and Occupation Classification Systems, Technical Paper No. 59, 1988. For citations for earlier census years, see the 1980 Census of Population report, PC80-1-D, Detailed Population Characteristics.

The 1990 census introduced an additional class of worker category for "private not-for-profit" employers. This category is a subset of the 1980 category "employee of private employer' so there is no comparable data before 1990. Also in 1990, employees of foreign governments, the United Nations, etc., are classified as "private not-for-profit," rather than Federal Government as in 1970 and 1980. While in theory, there was a change in comparability, in practice, the small number of U.S. residents working for foreign governments made this change negligible.

Comparability between the statistics on industry and occupation from the 1990 census and statistics from other sources is affected by many of the factors described in the section on "Employment Status." These factors are primarily geographic differences between residence and place of work, different dates of reference, and differences in counts because of dual job holding. Industry data from population censuses cover all industries and all kinds of workers, whereas data from establishments often excluded private household workers, government workers, and the self-employed. Also, the replies from household respondents may have differed in detail and nature from those obtained from establishments.

Occupation data from the census arid data from government licensing agencies, professional associations, trade unions, etc., may not be as comparable as expected. Organizational listings often include persons not in the labor force or persons devoting all or most of their time to another occupation; or the same person may be included in two or more different listings. In addition, relatively few organizations, except for those requiring licensing, attained complete coverage of membership in a particular occupational field.

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