Low-Income and Low-Skilled Workers Involvement in Nonstandard Employment. The Current Population Survey (CPS)


The CPS is a monthly survey of about 50,000 households conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPS is the primary source of data on labor force characteristics of the US civilian noninstitutional population. Monthly supplements provide estimates on a variety of topics of interest, including an annual March demographic supplement and a biannual February supplement on alternative work arrangements.(61) This latter supplement is used extensively by papers discussed in the literature review in Chapter 2.

The CPS data appropriate to analyze the characteristics of alternative work arrangement jobs and workers for low-income households come entirely from the February and March Basic Surveys and the supplements to these surveys. Beginning in 1995 and continuing in 1997 and 1999, the February Contingent Worker and Alternative Employment Supplement provides data on the types of work arrangements held by working respondents and on benefits provided by employers. All questions refer to the week prior to the survey date. The March Demographic supplement, administered each year, provides detailed demographic data and information on income levels and receipt of public assistance in the calendar year preceding the survey.

In our analysis of the CPS, we focus on comparing alternative and non-alternative arrangements regardless of income level, and for persons who are at risk of welfare receipt and/or low income, as defined in the next section.