2008 CPS Immigration/Emigration Supplement Debriefing Report

April 2013
Working Paper Number: POP-WP099
G. Patricia de la Cruz and Cassandra Logan


In August of 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau sponsored a supplement to the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) questionnaire. The Immigration/Emigration Supplement (referred to in this paper as the Migration Supplement or simply the Supplement) focused on five topics – citizenship, year of entry, residence one year ago, residents and emigrants abroad, and monetary transfers – and included questions not commonly found on other surveys. The overall purpose of the Migration Supplement was to provide the Census Bureau with additional data to aid its mission of improving knowledge on the size and characteristics of the foreign-born population in the United States.

The CPS, sponsored jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the primary source of labor force statistics for the population of the United States. The CPS is the source of numerous high-profile economic statistics, including the national unemployment rate, and provides data on a wide range of issues relating to employment and earnings. Although labor market information is central to the CPS, the survey provides a wealth of other demographic, social, and economic data that are widely used in both the public and private sectors.

In addition to the regular labor force questions, the CPS often includes supplemental questions on a wide range of topics, such as tobacco use, computer use, and voting patterns. The CPS interview is divided into three basic parts: 1) household and demographic information, 2) labor force information, and 3) supplement information. Supplement questions are added to the CPS in most months. Perhaps the most well known supplement is the Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) supplement, fielded in February, March, and April of each year.

The Migration Supplement included questions on:

• changes in citizenship status;

• year of first arrival, subsequent exits and entries, and time spent outside the United States;

• residence one year ago, either inside or outside the United States;

• movement by household members outside the United States within the last year and basic demographic information on those who emigrated; and

• money sent to or received from family and friends living outside the United States.

The content of the Migration Supplement questionnaire was developed and cognitively tested by the Census Bureau in the fall of 2007. The Supplement was administered August 17-26, 2008. Following standard CPS data collection protocols, the Supplement was administered via telephone by means of computer assisted telephone interview (CATI) and in person by means of computer assisted personal interview (CAPI). CATI interviews were fielded August 17-20, 2008 and CAPI interviews were fielded August 17-26, 2008. There was no mail out or paper version of the questionnaire. However, a mock paper replica of the automated Supplement Questionnaire is included in Appendix A.

After data collection was completed, analysts from the Census Bureau used focus group debriefings and other survey evaluation methods to assess the overall performance of the CPS Supplement and to evaluate the new and modified questions added to selected sections of the Supplement. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the findings from all of these evaluation methods.

May 2013
July 2013