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.