Dictionary of Occupation Titles (DOT) is not referenced by U.S. Census codes.

By David F. Traver

Excerpted from Social Security Disability Advocate’s Handbook

Some purveyors of reports allegedly addressing the numbers of jobs that might exist in the economy use “Census codes” instead of Dictionary of Occupational Titles “numbers.” The Department of Labor does not obtain information about the existence of jobs based upon “DOT numbers” and instead uses “Census Codes.”

Some VE’s still testify that Census codes allegedly contain data about groups of DOT definitions (see Chapter 14 for a discussion of DOT data). Surprisingly to some, Census codes currently do not happen to relate to such information. There no longer is a link between Census Codes and the DOT that is used by the Census Bureau.

The United States takes the census every ten years and also changes the census codes every ten years. The Census 2000 classifications were completely revised compared to 1990. Census Codes are now based on the 1997 NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) and the 1998 SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) coding structures. The 1990 system was based on the 1987 SIC (Standard Industrial Classification Manual) and the 1980 SOC (Standard Occupational Classification Manual). Source — Department of Labor.1 There is no longer a link between the 2000 census codes and the revised Fourth Edition of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), which was last updated in 1991.

The SOC was revised because it had not been updated since 1980. The revision was long overdue because of changes in the labor force and in the way economists view the labor force. Once the revision process was started, the SOC Revision Policy Committee quickly determined that, due to the extent of the changes being proposed, it was necessary to redesign the entire SOC. Source — Department of Labor.2

The 2000 Census Bureau’s job codes3 are different than the codes used in 1990.4 Which census data is the vocational expert using in your case?

Look at a few of the important differences in the codes and compare to the codes on the report the VE brought to the hearing. Ask the following questions:

  • Are the VE’s data are up-to-date?
  • Where did the VE’s data come from?
  • When were they last updated?
  • How were they updated?
  • Did the VE know the census codes she brought to the hearing were 13-years old?
  • If the report on the VE’s lap says it is for the most recent quarter of this year, why is that report using 1990 Census codes?
  • How did the publisher of that report use 1990 Census codes to produce statistically valid and reliable data about today’s jobs?

How does your VE explain this inconsistency and how does your VE know which DOT codes are associated with the 2000 Census Codes? See SSR 00-4p. (“When vocational evidence provided by a VE or VS is not consistent with information in the DOT, the adjudicator must resolve this conflict before relying on the VE or VS evidence to support a determination or decision that the individual is or is not disabled. The adjudicator will explain in the determination or decision how he or she resolved the conflict. The adjudicator must explain the resolution of the conflict irrespective of how the conflict was identified.”)5

§1505.2       Examples of Changes in Census Codes From 1990 to 2000

This chart gives a few examples of how the coding system has changed:

1990 Census Codes

2000 Census Codes

888 Hand packers and packagers

964 Packers and Packagers, Hand

796 Production inspectors, checkers, and examiners

874 Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers

426 Guards and police, except public service

392 Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers

425 Crossing guards

394 Crossing Guards

§1505.3       Census Occupational Data Limitations

Only the long form census questionnaire asks about occupation (one in six households get the long form). See Appendix for sample form.

Two questions are asked. The first identifies the business or industry. The second question asks for the person’s occupation and what are the most important duties/activities.

The U.S. Census then has employees review the answers and assign a “census code” to the occupation, as shown above.

There are currently about 500 separate census codes. This system is revised and updated every 10 years. There are no exertional demands identified. There are no skill levels identified

The Census Codes do not reference the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Other parties have assigned Dictionary of Occupational Titles to various 2000 census codes. But these are private undertakings and are not based upon any empirical review of the work done by the U.S. Census employees. An example of one of these undertakings is The Specific Occupation Selector Manual, 4th Ed. (2003), U.S. Publishing, Kansas City, MO.

§1505.4       Sample Cross-Examination of a VE—Census Data

Attorney:    You testified that there are 45,237 light assembly positions in Milwaukeethat allow for a sit/stand option at will, and have an SVP of two or less?

VE:            True.

Attorney:    Did you personally go out and count these jobs?

VE:            I did not.

Attorney:    What is your source of information?

VE:            I relied upon Census data.

Attorney:    Do you know how the Census obtained those data?

VE:            I suppose though the 2000 Census.

Attorney:    I am handing you the 2000 Census long form. [See Appendix] Could you please look at this form and tell me where it contains the type of information that would allow you to provide your answer?

VE:            It’s not there.

Attorney:    Do you have any other information from the Census Bureau that you could produce here today to that would support your testimony?

VE:            I do not.

Attorney:    If the ALJ gave you 30 days to produce such evidence, could you?

VE:            I could not.


1         www.census.gov/hhes/www/ioindex/faqs.html#Q9.

2         www.census.gov/hhes/www/ioindex/faqs.html#Q9.

3         http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/ioindex/occ2000t.pdf.

4         http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/cicdoc/cen90app/occup.htm.

5         http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/rulings/di/02/SSR2000-04-di-02.html.

David F. Traver has represented hundreds of claimants at SSA and over 200 claimants in U.S. District Courts.  He has bachelor and master degrees in vocational rehabilitation, and is the author of Social Security Disability Advocate’s Handbook, from which this article is excerpted.