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2016 Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Supplement User Note

On September 13, 2016, the Census Bureau released the results of the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement in the following reports:

  • Income and Poverty in the United States:  2015,
  • Health Insurance in the United States:  2015 and
  • The Supplemental Poverty Measure:  2015.

The initial release included comparisons based on place of residence (metropolitan statistical area status) between 2014 and 2015. However, the definitions of metropolitan areas used changed between 2014 and 2015. As a result, 2014 estimates by metropolitan status are not strictly comparable with 2015 estimates. Changes reflect not just real changes in income, poverty and health insurance status but also changes in metropolitan delineations.


Metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are geographic entities delineated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for use by Federal statistical agencies in collecting, tabulating, and publishing Federal statistics. A metropolitan statistical area's geographic composition, or list of geographic components at a particular point in time, is referred to as its "delineation." Metropolitan statistical areas are delineated by OMB using published standards and Census Bureau estimates. The standards and delineations are reviewed and revised once every ten years. In February 2013, OMB published a bulletin with the revised delineations based on the 2010 Census.


The OMB delineations of MSAs are used to classify each household in a survey as inside or outside a metropolitan statistical area. Households inside MSAs are also classified into those inside a principal city and those outside a principal city.  While OMB updates these delineations on a more frequent basis based on changes in population, the Current Population Survey (CPS) changes these delineations only once a decade.  The income, poverty and health insurance estimates for 2015 were the first to use the February 2013 OMB definitions.        

Here are some examples of the changes between the 2003 OMB delineations and the 2013 delineations. As of February 2013, the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown MSA no longer officially exists. Dutchess and Orange Counties are now part of the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Under the old delineations, households in Poughkeepsie were classified as inside a principal city of a metropolitan statistical area. With the new delineations, this same household would be classified as outside a principal city of a metropolitan statistical area.

Two MSAs, Sandusky, Ohio and Danville, VA, were changed from metropolitan to micropolitan statistical areas based on changes in population. If these areas were in sample, the categorization of these households would change from inside MSA to outside MSA since outside MSA includes micropolitan statistical areas.

Sometimes, when definitions change between years, the Census Bureau can apply the new definitions to the original file and produce meaningful year-to-year comparisons.  In this case, we were also phasing in the new 2010-based sample design so those estimates would also not be comparable. For more information on the new sample design, see page 336 of the Technical Documentation for the 2015 CPS ASEC.

The Census Bureau issued revised versions of all three reports. The reports were updated to remove year-to-year comparisons by place of residence (metropolitan statistical area status) from the tables and the text. Each report still provides the calendar year estimates for 2014 and 2015 by metropolitan area. The exact changes can be found in Tables 1 and 3 in the report “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015”, Tables 5 and A-5 in the report “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015”, and Table 6 in report “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2015”.

This approach is consistent with the information that was published when the metropolitan delineation changes were last introduced ten years ago. In the income, poverty and health insurance reports for 2005, no 2004 to 2005 comparisons by metropolitan status were presented.


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