Comparability of occupation data was affected by a number of factors, primarily the system used to classify the questionnaire responses. Changes in the occupational classification system limit comparability of the data from one year to another. These changes are needed to recognize the "birth" of new occupations, the "death" of others, the growth and decline in existing occupations, and the desire of analysts and other users for more detail in the presentation of the data. Probably the greatest cause of noncomparability is the movement of a segment from one category to another. Changes in the nature of jobs, respondent terminology, and refinement of category composition made these movements necessary.
ACS data from 1996 to 1999 used the same occupation classification systems used for the 1990 census; therefore, the data are comparable. Since 1990, the occupation classification has been revised to reflect changes within the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). The SOC was updated in 2000 and these changes were reflected in the Census 2000 occupation codes. The 2000-2002 ACS data used the same occupation classification systems used for Census 2000, therefore, the data are comparable. Because of the possibility of new occupations being added to the list of codes, the Census Bureau needed to have more flexibility in adding codes. Consequently, in 2002, census occupation codes were expanded from three-digit codes to four-digit codes. For occupation, this entailed adding a "0" to the end of each occupation code. The SOC was revised once more in 2011. Based on the 2011 SOC changes, Census codes were revised resulting in a net gain of 30 Census occupation codes (from 509 occupations to 539 occupations). Most of these changes were concentrated in information technology, healthcare, printing, and human resources occupations. For more information on occupational comparability across classification systems, please see technical paper #65: The Relationship Between the 1990 Census and Census 2000 Industry and Occupation Classification Systems.
For information on the 2011 SOC and Census codes, please see the summary of 2011 changes and the Census 2002 to 2011 occupation crosswalk
See the 2011 Code List for Occupation Code List.
See also, Industry and Class of Worker.