Thursday, December 01, 2016

CPS Redesign Still A Problem

The Employee Benefit Research Institute is still unhappy with the redesigned Current Population Survey. The changes to the CPS questionnaire, introduced to the full sample in 2014, were designed to better capture pension income. That they did, but the changes also resulted in sharp declines in estimated retirement plan participation among workers. The declines are larger than any in the past, notes EBRI, and they are inconsistent with the steady participation recorded by other government surveys.

Last year EBRI examined the problem with the CPS redesign in an analysis of 2014 data (see the Demo Memo post about it here). Now with 2015 data in hand, EBRI finds the problem not only continuing but worsening. Among full-time wage and salary workers aged 21 to 64, the percentage who work for an employer that sponsors a retirement plan fell by a whopping 12 percentage points between 2013 (traditional questions) and 2015 (redesigned questions). Something is wrong with this picture.

Although EBRI admits that pension income estimates are improved by the redesigned CPS, it believes something must be done to improve retirement plan participation estimates. "Currently the U.S. Census Bureau has no plans to revise the CPS," EBRI states. "Rather modest modifications could be made within the CPS questionnaire along the lines of other federal government surveys to improve the retirement plan participation estimates. Until that time, any person or organization using the data or those reading analyses from the data need to be aware of the issues with the data."

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, Another Year After the Current Population Survey Redesign and More Questions about the Survey's Retirement Plan Participation Estimates

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