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How Long is a Spell of Unemployment?: Illusions and Biases in the Use of CPS Data

Nicholas M. Kiefer, Shelly J. Lundberg, George R. Neumann

NBER Working Paper No. 1467
Issued in September 1984
NBER Program(s):The Labor Studies Program

Most data used to study the durations of unemployment spells come from the Current Population Survey, which is a point-in-time survey and gives an incomplete picture of the underlying duration distribution. We introduce a new sample of completed unemployment spells obtained from panel data and apply CPS sampling and reporting techniques to replicate the type of data used by other researchers. Predicted duration distributions derived from this CPS-like data are then compared to the actual distribution. We conclude that the best inferences that can be made about unemployment durations using CPS-like data are seriously biased.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w1467

Published: Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, Vol. 3, no. 2 (April 1985): pp. 118-128. citation courtesy of

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