Data Dictionary: ACS 2008 (1-Year Estimates)
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Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Table: C18120. Disability Status By Employment Status [7]
Universe: Civilian noninstitutionalized population 18 to 64 years
Table Details
C18120. Disability Status By Employment Status
Universe: Civilian noninstitutionalized population 18 to 64 years
Variable Label
C18120001
C18120002
C18120003
C18120004
C18120005
C18120006
C18120007
Relevant Documentation:
Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2008 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Disability Status
Using models of disability from the Institute of Medicine and the International Classification of Functioning, disability is defined as the restriction in participation that results from a lack of fit between the individual's functional limitations and the characteristics of the physical and social environment. So while the disability is not seen as intrinsic to the individual, the way to capture it in a survey is to measure components that make up the process. The American Community Survey identifies serious difficulty in four basic areas of functioning: vision, hearing, ambulation, and cognition. Described below, the ACS asks respondents about serious difficulty and the resulting data can be used individually or combined. The ACS also includes two questions to identify people with difficulties that might impact their ability to live independently. In the 2008 American Community Survey, there are three disability questions, two with subparts totaling six questions in all, as described below.
Limitation of the Data
The 2008 American Community Survey questions on disability represent a conceptual and empirical break from earlier years of the ACS. Hence, the Census Bureau does not recommend any comparisons to disability data from the 2007 ACS and earlier. For additional information on the differences between the 2008 ACS disability questions and prior ACS disability questions, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Disability" (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/AdvMeth/content_test/P4_Disability.pdf).

The universe for most disability data tabulations is the civilian noninstitutionalized population. Some types of GQ populations have disability distributions that are different from the household population. The inclusion of the noninstitutionalized GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the disability distribution. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial noninstitutionalized GQ population. For a discussion of the effect of group quarters data has on estimates of disability status, see "Disability Status and the Characteristics of People in Group Quarters: A Brief Analysis of Disability Prevalence among the Civilian Noninstitutionalized and Total Populations in the American Community Survey" (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/disability/GQdisability.pdf).
Hearing and Vision Limitations
The data on hearing and vision limitations were derived from answers to Questions 16a and 16b. Question 16a asked respondents if they were "deaf or ... [had] serious difficulty hearing." Question 16b asked if respondents were "blind or ... [had] serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses." Respondents were instructed to mark "yes" or "no" for each question. Question 16a is labeled as "Hearing difficulty" and Question 16b as "Vision difficulty" for some of the disability data products such as the ACS Detailed Tables.
Limitation of the Data
The Census Bureau does not recommend trend analysis using the 2008 data with years prior to 2008 due to the questionnaire change.
Question/Concept History
The 2008 American Community Survey marks a break in the series of disability data. In the 1999 - 2007 American Community Surveys, hearing and vision limitations were captured with one question, referred in data products as "Sensory disability." As such, parsing out which limitation respondents identified with was impossible. In addition, research has showed that combining the two new measures to replicate a similar measure as the old one proved not comparable. For additional information on the differences between the 2008 ACS disability questions and prior ACS disability questions, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Disability" (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/AdvMeth/content_test/P4_Disability.pdf).
Limitations in Cognitive Functioning
The data on cognitive functioning were derived from answers to Question 17a, which was asked of people 5 years old and over. The question asked respondents if due to physical, mental, or emotional condition, they had "serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions." Respondents were instructed to mark "yes" or "no." Question 17a is labeled as "Cognitive difficulty" for some disability data products such as the ACS Detailed Tables.
Limitation of the Data
The Census Bureau does not recommend trend analysis using the 2008 data with years prior to 2008 due to the questionnaire change.
Question/Concept History
The 2008 American Community Survey marks a break in the series of disability data. In prior American Community Surveys, a similar question about difficulty "learning, remembering, and concentrating" was asked. However, the change in activities on which cognitive limitations are based suggest that the 2008 measure is not comparable with the "Mental disability" estimates from prior years. For additional information on the differences between the 2008 ACS disability questions and prior ACS disability questions, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Disability" (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/AdvMeth/content_test/P4_Disability.pdf).
Ambulatory Limitations
The data on ambulatory functioning were derived from answers to Question 17b, which was asked of people 5 years old and over. The question asked respondents if they had "serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs." Respondents were instructed to mark "yes" or "no." Question 17b is labeled as "Ambulatory difficulty" for some disability data products such as the ACS Detailed Tables.
Limitation of the Data
The Census Bureau does not recommend trend analysis using the 2008 data with years prior to 2008 due to the questionnaire change.
Question/Concept History
The 2008 American Community Survey marks a break in the series of disability data. In prior American Community Surveys, a similar question about "conditions that limit one or more basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, reaching, lifting, or carrying" was asked However, the changes to the wording and tailoring of the list of activities on which the limitation is based suggest that the 2008 measure is not comparable with the "Physical disability" estimates from prior years. For additional information on the differences between the 2008 ACS disability questions and prior ACS disability questions, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Disability" (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/AdvMeth/content_test/P4_Disability.pdf).
Self-Care Limitations
The data on self-care limitations were derived from answers to Question 17c, which was asked of people 5 years and over. The question asked respondents if they had "difficulty dressing or bathing." Respondents were instructed to mark yes or no. Question 17c is labeled as "Self-care difficulty" for some disability data products such as the ACS Detailed Tables.
Limitation of the Data
The Census Bureau does not recommend trend analysis using the 2008 data with years prior to 2008 due to the questionnaire change.
Question/Concept History
The 2008 American Community Survey marks a break in the series of disability data. In prior American Community Surveys, a similar question about difficulty "dressing, bathing, or getting around inside the home" was asked. However, the changes to the wording and tailoring of the list of activities on which the limitation is based suggest that the 2008 measure is not comparable with the "Self-care disability" estimates from prior years. For additional information on the differences between the 2008 ACS disability questions and prior ACS disability questions, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Disability" (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/AdvMeth/content_test/P4_Disability.pdf).
Independent Living Limitations
The data on independent living limitations were derived from answers to Question 18, asked of people 15 years and over. The question asked respondents if due to a physical, mental, or emotional condition, they had difficulty "doing errands alone such as visiting a doctors office or shopping." Respondents were instructed to mark "yes" or "no." Question 18 is labeled as "Independent living difficulty" for some disability products such as the ACS Detailed Tables.
Limitation of the Data
The Census Bureau does not recommend trend analysis using the 2008 data with years prior to 2008 due to the questionnaire change.
Question/Concept History
The 2008 American Community Survey marks a break in the series of disability data. In prior American Community Surveys, a similar question about difficulty "going outside the home alone to shop or visit a doctor's office" was asked. However, the changes to the wording of the question suggest that the 2008 measure is not comparable with the "Going-outside-home disability" estimates from prior years. For additional information on the differences between the 2008 ACS disability questions and prior ACS disability questions, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Disability" (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/AdvMeth/content_test/P4_Disability.pdf).
Disability Status
The Census Bureau uses the six disability questions above to determine an individuals disability status in some of its data products such as in the ACS Detailed Tables and the Disability Profile. People under 5 years were classified as having a disability if they were reported to have either a hearing or vision difficulty. People aged 5 to 14 were classified as having a disability if they were reported to have any one of the five limitations: hearing difficulty, vision difficulty, cognitive difficulty, ambulatory difficulty, or self-care difficulty. People aged15 and over were classified as having a disability if they reported any one of the six limitations described above.
Limitation of the Data
The Census Bureau does not recommend trend analysis using the 2008 data with years prior to 2008 due to the 2008 questionnaire change. For information on the differences between the 2008 ACS disability questions and prior ACS disability questions, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Disability" (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/AdvMeth/content_test/P4_Disability.pdf).
Excerpt from: Social Explorer; U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey 2008 Summary File: Technical Documentation.
 
Employment Status
The data on employment status were derived from Questions 28 and 34 to 36 in the 2008 American Community Survey. (In the 1999-2002 American Community Survey, data were derived from Questions 22 and 28 to 30; in the 1996-1998 American Community Survey, data were derived from Questions 21 and 28 to 30.) The questions were asked of all people 15 years old and over. The series of questions on employment status was designed to identify, in this sequence: (1) people who worked at any time during the reference week; (2) people on temporary layoff who were available for work; (3) people who did not work during the reference week but who had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent (excluding layoff); (4) people who did not work during the reference week, but who were looking for work during the last four weeks and were available for work during the reference week; and (5) people not in the labor force. (For more information, see the discussion under "Reference Week.") The employment status data shown in American Community Survey tabulations relate to people 16 years old and over.
Employed
This category includes all civilians 16 years old and over who either (1) were "at work," that is, those who did any work at all during the reference week as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession, worked on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers on a family farm or in a family business; or (2) were "with a job but not at work," that is, those who did not work during the reference week but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent due to illness, bad weather, industrial dispute, vacation, or other personal reasons. Excluded from the employed are people whose only activity consisted of work around the house or unpaid volunteer work for religious, charitable, and similar organizations; also excluded are all institutionalized people and people on active duty in the United States Armed Forces.
Civilian Employed
This term is defined exactly the same as the term "employed" above.
Unemployed
All civilians 16 years old and over are classified as unemployed if they (1) were neither "at work" nor "with a job but not at work" during the reference week, and (2) were looking for work during the last 4 weeks, and (3) were available to start a job. Also included as unemployed are civilians who did not work at all during the reference week, were waiting to be called back to a job from which they had been laid off, and were available for work except for temporary illness. Examples of job seeking activities are:
  • Registering at a public or private employment office
  • Meeting with prospective employers
  • Investigating possibilities for starting a professional practice or opening a business
  • Placing or answering advertisements
  • Writing letters of application
  • Being on a union or professional register


Civilian Labor Force
Consists of people classified as employed or unemployed in accordance with the criteria described above.
Unemployment Rate
The unemployment rate represents the number of unemployed people as a percentage of the civilian labor force. For example, if the civilian labor force equals 100 people and 7 people are unemployed, then the unemployment rate would be 7 percent.
Labor Force
All people classified in the civilian labor force plus members of the U.S. Armed Forces (people on active duty with the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard).
Labor Force Participation Rate
The labor force participation rate represents the proportion of the population that is in the labor force. For example, if there are 100 people in the population 16 years and over, and 64 of them are in the labor force, then the labor force participation rate for the population 16 years and over would be 64 percent.
Not in Labor Force
All people 16 years old and over who are not classified as members of the labor force. This category consists mainly of students, homemakers, retired workers, seasonal workers interviewed in an off season who were not looking for work, institutionalized people, and people doing only incidental unpaid family work (less than 15 hours during the reference week).
Worker
This term appears in connection with several subjects: employment status, journey-to-work questions, class of worker, weeks worked in the past 12 months, and number of workers in family in the past 12 months. Its meaning varies and, therefore, should be determined in each case by referring to the definition of the subject in which it appears. When used in the concepts "workers in family" and "full-time, year-round workers," the term "worker" relates to the meaning of work defined for the "work experience" subject.
Limitation of the Data
The data may understate the number of employed people because people who have irregular, casual, or unstructured jobs sometimes report themselves as not working. The number of employed people "at work" is probably overstated in the data (and conversely, the number of employed "with a job, but not at work" is understated) since some people on vacation or sick leave erroneously reported themselves as working. This problem has no effect on the total number of employed people. The reference week for the employment data is not the same for all people. Since people can change their employment status from one week to another, the lack of a uniform reference week may mean that the employment data do not reflect the reality of the employment situation of any given week. (For more information, see the discussion under "Reference Week.")

Beginning in 2006, the population in group quarters (GQ) is included in the ACS. Some types of GQ populations have employment status distributions that are different from the household population. All institutionalized people are placed in the "not in labor force category." The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the employment status distribution. This is particularly true for areas with a substantial GQ population. For example, in areas having a large state prison population, the employment rate would be expected to decrease because the base of the percentage, which now includes the population in correctional institutions, is larger.

The Census Bureau tested the changes introduced to the 2008 version of the employment status questions in the 2006 ACS Content Test. The results of this testing show that the changes may introduce an inconsistency in the data produced for these questions as observed from the years 2007 to 2008, see "2006 ACS Content Test Evaluation Report Covering Employment Status" (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/AdvMeth/content_test/P6a_Employment_Status.pdf).
Comparability
Since employment data from the American Community Survey are obtained from respondents in households, they differ from statistics based on reports from individual business establishments, farm enterprises, and certain government programs. People employed at more than one job are counted only once in the American Community Survey and are classified according to the job at which they worked the greatest number of hours during the reference week. In statistics based on reports from business and farm establishments, people who work for more than one establishment may be counted more than once. Moreover, some tabulations may exclude private household workers, unpaid family workers, and self-employed people, but may include workers less than 16 years of age. An additional difference in the data arises from the fact that people who had a job but were not at work are included with the employed in the American Community Survey statistics, whereas many of these people are likely to be excluded from employment figures based on establishment payroll reports. Furthermore, the employment status data in tabulations include people on the basis of place of residence regardless of where they work, whereas establishment data report people at their place of work regardless of where they live. This latter consideration is particularly significant when comparing data for workers who commute between areas.

For several reasons, the unemployment figures of the Census Bureau are not comparable with published figures on unemployment compensation claims. For example, figures on unemployment compensation claims exclude people who have exhausted their benefit rights, new workers who have not earned rights to unemployment insurance, and people losing jobs not covered by unemployment insurance systems (including some workers in agriculture, domestic services, and religious organizations, and self-employed and unpaid family workers). In addition, the qualifications for drawing unemployment compensation differ from
the definition of unemployment used by the Census Bureau. People working only a few hours during the week and people with a job but not at work are sometimes eligible for unemployment compensation but are classified as "Employed" in the American Community Survey. Differences in the geographical distribution of unemployment data arise because the place where claims are filed may not necessarily be the same as the place of residence of the unemployed worker.
For guidance on differences in employment and unemployment estimates from different sources, go to http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/laborfor/laborguidance082504.html

- Question/Concept History -
Worked Last Week (Question 28):
From 1999-2007, an italicized instruction was added to the question to help respondents determine what to count as work. Starting in 2008, the instruction was removed and the question was separated into two parts in an effort to give respondents - particularly people with irregular kinds of work arrangements - two opportunities to grasp and respond to the correct intent of the question.
On Layoff (Question 34a):
Starting in 1999, the "Yes, on temporary layoff from most recent job" and "Yes, permanently laid off from most recent job" response categories were condensed into a single "Yes" category. An additional question (Q34b) was added to determine the temporary/permanent layoff distinction.
Temporarily Absent (Question 34b):
Starting in 2008, the temporarily absent question included a revised list of examples of work absences.
Recalled to Work (Question 34c):
This question was added in the 1999 American Community Survey to determine if a respondent who reported being on layoff from a job had been informed that he or she would be recalled to work within 6 months or been given a date to return to work.
Available to Work (Question 36):
Starting in 1999, the "Yes, if a job had been offered" and "Yes, if recalled from layoff" response categories were condensed into one category, "Yes, could have gone to work." Starting in 2008, the actively looking for work question was modified to emphasize 'active' job-searching activities.