Getting Started with the CPS

What is the CPS used for?
The CPS is used for a wide variety of research in a number of academic fields. It is most well-known for being the dataset that produces the unemployment rate and other macroeconomic indicators that appear monthly in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) household component of the Employment Situation Summary. Although the CPS has a clear focus on employment status and situation, there are a number of other applications of the data in other areas of social science.

Similarly, there are many research questions that cannot be addressed using only the CPS. For instance, this is a domestic level, household survey that would contain no information about trade or business investment. If you are unsure whether or not the CPS contains variables that may aid in your research, our technical documentation can provide insight into the contents of the survey.

What are the main topics covered in the CPS?
The CPS mostly addresses the participation of individuals in the labor market. Additionally, the CPS provides demographic and geographic information on individuals and households in the sample. For a general overview of topics covered in the CPS, check out our Core Concepts page.

What variables should be used for analysis?
There is no right or wrong answer given that different sets of variables are useful for different research questions. However, there are a core set of demographic and informational variables that may be useful regardless of the specific focus of CPS related research. CADRE provides a primer for these main concepts as well as some pseudocode for those who want to work directly with the data.

I’ve got the basics down, where can I learn more?
For those comfortable with the basic topics covered in the CPS, head over to the In-Depth with the CPS section. This section covers a range of more detailed research topics addressed using CPS data.

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