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Working Paper Number CES-17-34


Commuting flows and workplace employment data have a wide constituency of users including urban and regional planners, social science and transportation researchers, and businesses. The U.S. Census Bureau releases two, national data products that give the magnitude and characteristics of home to work flows. The American Community Survey (ACS) tabulates households’ responses on employment, workplace, and commuting behavior. The Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) program tabulates administrative records on jobs in the LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES). Design differences across the datasets lead to divergence in a comparable statistic: county-to-county aggregate commute flows. To understand differences in the public use data, this study compares ACS and LEHD source files, using identifying information and probabilistic matching to join person and job records. In our assessment, we compare commuting statistics for job frames linked on person, employment status, employer, and workplace and we identify person and job characteristics as well as design features of the data frames that explain aggregate differences. We find a lower rate of within-county commuting and farther commutes in LODES. We attribute these greater distances to differences in workplace reporting and to uncertainty of establishment assignments in LEHD for workers at multi-unit employers. Minor contributing factors include differences in residence location and ACS workplace edits. The results of this analysis and the data infrastructure developed will support further work to understand and enhance commuting statistics in both datasets.

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