Linking ATUS and CPS Data

Households chosen for participation in the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) are selected randomly from households that are exiting from participation in the Current Population Survey (CPS). For addressing certain questions, researchers may wish to create data files that combine information from the ATUS with data for the same individuals collected during CPS interviews in which their households participated.

The design of the CPS calls for selected housing units to participate in the survey for four successive months, be out of the sample for eight months, and then return for four additional months. This sample rotation pattern means that each housing unit selected for the CPS remains in the sample for a total of eight months spread out over a period of sixteen months. In addition to completing the basic CPS interview in each of these eight months, households may also have completed a number of CPS supplement interviews. It should be noted that some people will spend fewer than eight months in the CPS sample, since it is the current occupants of the designated housing units rather than a fixed set of individuals who are interviewed.

As already noted, the ATUS sample is chosen from among households who complete a wave eight basic CPS interview. The BLS makes available special data files that include most of the information from the final basic CPS interview completed by each ATUS sample household. Almost all of this information can be accessed directly through the ATUS Data Extract Builder (ATUS-X). Anyone seeking to analyze ATUS data in conjunction with basic CPS data from any of the first seven months a household is in the CPS sample or in conjunction with data from any of the CPS supplements in which these households may have participated during their eight months in the CPS sample will need to create their own linked data files. You may either follow BLS instructions or use CPSIDP, an IPUMS-created identifier for linking across IPUMS CPS and ATUS-X databases.

BLS Instructions

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed detailed instructions for linking ATUS and CPS data files. One thing you need to know if you plan to use these instructions is that the names of the variables on data extracts created using ATUS-X are not the same as the names on the original ATUS data files. In order to link ATUS-X data sets to CPS data, you will need to rename some of the variables on the ATUS-X data file or create copies of those variables that have names that match the names of the variables on the original ATUS files. The variables that will need to be renamed or copied may include some or all of the following:

Variable Name on ATUS-X File Variable Name on Original ATUS File

Once you have the proper variables with the names shown in the right hand column above in your data file, you can apply the linking instructions developed by the BLS.


Alternatively, you may take advantage of the work done by IPUMS CPS and ATUS-X to make it easier to link and analyze these files. Both IPUMS CPS and ATUS-X deliver the variable CPSIDP (IPUMS CPS and ATUS-X), which may be used to link CPS files from IPUMS CPS to respondents in the ATUS from ATUS-X. All monthly and supplement data from IPUMS CPS are harmonized. Here is the complete list of supplement data currently available from IPUMS CPS.

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