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The Evolution of Rotation Group Bias: Will the Real Unemployment Rate Please Stand Up?

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Listed:
  • Alan Krueger

    (Princeton Univ ersity)

  • Alexandre Mas

    (Princeton University)

  • Xiaotong Niu

    (Congressional Budget Office)

Abstract

This paper documents that rotation group bias - the tendency for labor force statistics to vary systematically by month in sample in labor force surveys - in the Current Population Survey (CPS) has worsened considerably over time. The estimated unemployment rate for earlier rotation groups has grown sharply relative to the unemployment rate for later rotation groups; both should be nationally representative samples. The rise in rotation group bias is driven by a growing tendency for respondents to report job search in earlier rotations relative to later rotations. We investigate explanations for the change in bias. We find that rotation group bias increased discretely after the 1994 CPS redesign and that rising nonresponse is likely a significant contributor. Survey nonresponse increased after the redesign, and subsequently trended upward, mirroring the time pattern of rotation group bias. Consistent with this explanation, there is only a small increase in rotation group bias for households that responded in all eight interviews. An analysis of rotation group bias in Canada and the U.K. reveal no rotation group bias in Canada and a modest and declining bias in the U.K. There is not a "Heisenberg Principle" of rotation group bias, whereby the bias is an inherent feature of repeated interviewing. We explore alternative weightings of the unemployment rate by rotation group and find that, despite the rise in rotation group bias, the official unemployment does no worse than these other measures in predicting alternative measures of economic slack or fitting key macroeconomic relationships.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Krueger & Alexandre Mas & Xiaotong Niu, 2014. "The Evolution of Rotation Group Bias: Will the Real Unemployment Rate Please Stand Up?," Working Papers 578, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:578
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Solon, Gary, 1986. "Effects of Rotation Group Bias on Estimation of Unemployment," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 4(1), pages 105-109, January.
    2. Daniel Aaronson & Bhashkar Mazumder & Shani Schechter, 2010. "What is behind the rise in long-term unemployment?," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q II, pages 28-51.
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    Cited by:

    1. Abdullah Almaatouq, 2016. "Complex Systems and a Computational Social Science Perspective on the Labor Market," Papers 1606.08562, arXiv.org.
    2. Hirsch, Barry & Husain, Muhammad M. & Winters, John V., 2016. "The Puzzling Fixity of Multiple Job Holding across Regions and Labor Markets," IZA Discussion Papers 9631, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Ori Heffetz & Daniel B. Reeves, 2016. "Difficulty to Reach Respondents and Nonresponse Bias: Evidence from Large Government Surveys," NBER Working Papers 22333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Current Population Survey; CPS; Canada; United Kingdom; United States; USA; Labour Force Survey;

    JEL classification:

    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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