© Copyright 2002 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


Defining Residency for the Wyoming Workforce

by:  Sylvia D. Jones, Research and Statistical Analyst

"Those workers who do not have a Wyoming-issued driver's license and who work less than four quarters in the State are not representative of everyone who is employed in the State. Given that nonresidents work, on average, only two quarters, it is likely their quarterly earnings are significantly lower than more permanent residents."

In June 2002, the U.S. Census Bureau released the first detailed economic data for Wyoming from the 2000 Census long-form questionnaire.1 The data are quite diverse, ranging from population by age to household type and educational attainment. All of the data represent the “resident population” of Wyoming. What exactly constitutes Wyoming’s resident population? Understanding the answer to this question is particularly important when addressing the related issues of the current and potential labor supply. In this article, we review several definitions of residency, review research by other states to define working residents, develop our own methodology for determining residency, and present research indicating the consequences of including nonresident workers when calculating average wages.

Existing Definitions of Residency

The U.S. Census Bureau uses the concept of usual residence as its working definition of residency. Usual residence is defined as the place where a person lives and sleeps most of the time. This place is not necessarily the same as the person’s voting or legal residence. People who reside in two places, or those who commute part of the week, are considered residents of the place where they spend the most time.2 This is true regardless of a person’s tenure in that area. In other words, for Census purposes, people are considered residents of Wyoming if they worked and slept here for that one week during the time the Census was taken in April 2000, even if they lived here only during that week.

For statistical purposes, other U.S. Department of Commerce entities use the concept of usual residence as well, although with some slight modifications. For instance, the Bureau of Economic Analysis defines employee residency as the location at which the employee is residing while employed.3 For purposes of enumeration and statistical estimation, persons are identified by place of residence rather than place of work. This can become problematic, especially in areas located close to a state border. Labor markets are not always defined by state lines. For instance, the 1990 Decennial Census showed that of the 7,234 people who worked in Teton County, 642 (9.0%) commuted from another state.

Wyoming does not have a single statistical definition of residence. Rather, it has several administrative definitions. For voting purposes, residence is defined as the place where a person has a current habitation and to which, whenever absent, has the intention of returning.4 The State of Wyoming adds the concept of domicile to further clarify who is considered a legal resident of the State. A domicile refers to that place where a person has a true, fixed, and permanent home to which, whenever absent, the person has the intention of returning. A person may have more than one residence, but only one domicile. To be considered a legal resident of Wyoming, a person must have domiciled within Wyoming for a period of not less than one year and not claimed residency elsewhere for any purpose during the one year period.5

The University of Wyoming uses a similar administrative definition. It defines a Wyoming resident as an individual with a permanent home in Wyoming who has resided in the State for at least one full year. Determination of whether or not a permanent residence has been established is based on factors such as full-time employment in Wyoming for one continuous year, ownership of property in the State, a Wyoming vehicle registration, a Wyoming address on the most recent tax return, a valid Wyoming driver’s license, or a Wyoming voter registration.6

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department also has an administrative definition of residence. To qualify for a resident game and fish license, permit, or tag, “a person shall be domiciled and shall physically reside in Wyoming for one (1) year immediately preceeding the date the person applies for the license, permit, or tag.”7 The place where a person’s family resides is presumed to be the place of residence, but a person who establishes or continues a place of abode with the intent of remaining at a place other than where the person’s family resides shall be presumed a resident of the place where the person actually resides. The person must physically reside in Wyoming, must intend to make a permanent home in Wyoming, and is not residing in Wyoming for a special or temporary purpose.

For purposes of research, Wyoming Unemployment Insurance (UI) Wage Records counts people by place of work in Wyoming, regardless of where they live. According to Wage Records, there were 239,306 individuals working in UI covered jobs at any time during the second quarter of 2000, the same period the 2000 Census was conducted. Given the differences in the criteria used for inclusion in the various employed population counts, we cannot easily compare the 241,055 Census-defined resident employed population as of April 2000 (some of whom worked in other states) to the 239,306 Wage Records-defined employed population during the same period. Each count describes a slightly different subset of people. However, we would still expect the Census-defined employed population to be very close to the Wage Records-defined employed population. In theory, most people who work in Wyoming also live in Wyoming and vice-versa. If the Census count was greatly larger, it could indicate that many people living in the State commute out-of-state to work. Conversely, if the Wage Records count is greatly higher, it could mean there are many nonresidents working in Wyoming.

When compared, Wage Records represent 99.3 percent of the Census count. Regardless of appearances, the two counts are not similar because the Wage Records database only includes approximately 85 to 90 percent of all workers in Wyoming. Most jobs in production agriculture, Federal Government, railroads, and the self-employed are not reported in Wage Records. It is not possible to account for the differences caused by most of these jobs; however, when agricultural production workers were removed from the total, an estimated 232,289 workers remained. There were 234,930 workers based on Wage Records after removing agricultural workers, making Wage Records 101.1 percent of the Census estimate. This means that there were many more people working in Wyoming than workers actually living in the State in April 2000. In other words, it appears there is a net inflow of commuters into Wyoming, or at least a significant group of nonresidents employed in the State.

Research from Other States

For statistical and research purposes, it is desirable that we have a way of separating individuals who are nonresidents but work in Wyoming from those who are working residents. Research from other states indicates that the presence of a driver’s license is a fairly robust proxy for residency. For example, in 1996 Hans Johnson produced a report on undocumented immigration to California during the period 1980 to 1993.8 In his report, he compared the number of California residents (as defined by the Census Bureau) to the number of individuals who held a California driver’s license. He found that in both 1980 and 1990, only nine percent of residents over the age of 18 did not have a driver’s license.

The State of Alaska has also conducted research on residency. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development prepares a report each year on resident hires. They define Alaska residency by matching the Alaska Department of Revenue Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Wage Record file. The PFD file is a list of Alaskans who either applied for or received a PFD. To be eligible to receive the PFD, individuals had to be present for the entire year. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Services has tried using other measures to determine residency. The method most closely matching the PFD is the presence of an Alaska driver’s license. For instance, there were 362,873 total workers in 2000. There were 297,885 PFD-determined resident workers and 284,574 workers with an Alaska driver’s license, a difference of only 4.5 percent.9 Table 1 compares Alaska residents to the number of Alaskan driver’s licenses for 1998 through 2000.

Wyoming does not have a Permanent Fund Dividend or any sort of equivalent with which to firmly establish residency. However, if we can adapt what we have learned from Alaska, we can infer that possession of a state-issued driver’s license closely approximates state residency.

Wyoming Specific Research

As previously discussed, Wyoming does not have a standard statistical definition of residency. It is apparent that not all who work in Wyoming are residents of the State. Therefore, we find it necessary to propose a standard definition of Wyoming residency applicable to workers found in Wyoming Wage Records. Those who do not have a Wyoming-issued driver’s license and who work less than four quarters in the State are not representative of everyone who is employed in the State. These differences create a clear line of demarcation between workers. Hence, Wyoming residents are defined as individuals who hold a Wyoming-issued driver’s license or work in the State for at least four quarters. The workers who do not meet these criteria are termed nonresidents. While this may seem a harsh generalization, there is ample data to support the definition.

With our unique economy and number of border cities (e.g., Cheyenne, Evanston, Jackson, Gillette), we know that there are people who either commute into the State to work or live here temporarily while working. This is especially true in the tourism industry which relies heavily on seasonal employment. However, we previously had no easy method of sorting people by state residence. The closest administrative database we have is driver’s license data. A Wyoming Labor Force Trends article in September 2001, “Labor Market Areas: Connecting Place of Work to Place of Residence with Administrative Data,” discussed this issue specifically for Teton County. In 2000, 14,580 people worked in Jackson, Wyoming, based on Wage Records. Of those, 7,579 (52.0%) did not have a Wyoming driver’s license and we have no documented evidence related to where they actually lived.10

Examples of Wage Records without corresponding driver’s license information are found throughout the State. During the years 1997 to 2000, an average of 32,105 persons per year (or approximately 10.7% of persons working in Wyoming) had unknown demographics.11 We do not have demographic information (age, gender, and place of residence) on these people because they lack a Wyoming-issued driver’s license. Furthermore, demographics cannot be imputed (statistically determined from other known data) because R&P’s rules for imputation require that the individual be employed in Wyoming for at least four quarters.12 This leaves us with a group of people whom we know very little about.

What we do know about workers for whom we are missing demographic information is that they are not at all similar to the rest of the Wyoming workforce. According to Wage Records data collected since 1992, women work an average of 17.7 quarters in Wyoming while men average 18.1 quarters. Those whose gender we do not know only average 1.7 quarters. The small number of average quarters worked suggests that workers in this group are highly mobile and marginally attached to the Wyoming labor market.

Table 2 illustrates the mobile nature of this group of people. In the reference period, fourth quarter of 1999 (1999Q4), there were 224,136 individuals whose primary employer was in Wyoming.13 Primary employer is defined as the employer that paid the largest proportion of wages to an individual in any given quarter. Of those who worked primarily in Wyoming, we do not have demographics for 9,144. In 1999Q3, one quarter prior, 31.5 percent of the 9,144 workers (2,877) were found working primarily in Wyoming. In the quarter following the reference period, 17.7 percent of the 9,144 workers (1,622) were still employed primarily in Wyoming. Interestingly, in 1998Q4, four quarters prior to the reference period, only 2.0 percent of those individuals worked primarily in Wyoming. In 2000Q4, four quarters after, only 2.6 percent still worked primarily in the State. Although this article reports data using only 1999Q4 as the reference period, the same employment patterns were exhibited when using other quarters as the reference period. In essence, tabular data indicate that only about three percent of people for whom we are missing demographics work in Wyoming for a year or more. Most of them work one quarter and then leave.

Taking the analysis a step further, all those who only worked in 1999Q4 (i.e., a more stringent subset of nonresident workers), were examined. Approximately 90 percent of those individuals lacked a Wyoming driver’s license. The majority of them were found in three industries: Construction, Retail Trade, and Services (see Table 3), which is not surprising considering the seasonal nature of these industries.

The mobile pattern presented by the nonresident workers suggests that they might also have lower quarterly earnings in Wyoming than Wyoming residents. We know that those who work continuously earn more in a quarter than those who have an employment change. In the transportation industry, those who entered or left employment in the fourth quarter of 1999 earned only about 20 percent of the wages earned by those who remained continuously employed.14 Given that nonresidents work, on average, only two quarters, it is likely their quarterly earnings are significantly lower than more permanent residents.

Our research indicates that in 1999, the average annual wage for nonresident workers was only $4,030 (30.6% of the annual wages for women and 15.9% of the annual wages for men during the same year). Including the wages of the 11.8 percent of workers considered nonresidents in the total reduces Wyoming’s mean annual wage by 9.4 percent or $1,820 (see Table 4).


In general, people who do not obtain a driver’s license in a given state are less attached to that state than those who do. Perhaps they do not plan to work in the state long enough to consider themselves residents. Roughly ten percent of Wyoming’s workforce in any given quarter do not hold a Wyoming driver’s license. It seems reasonable to label that ten percent of workers as nonresidents of Wyoming. Excluding the nonresidents from our summary statistics would allow for a much better picture of the resident Wyoming labor market. Therefore, we propose classifying individuals without a Wyoming-issued driver’s license or at least four quarters of work history in Wyoming as nonresident workers and count them separately. More research may be required to explore additional administrative databases for a better definition of residency. However, we believe this definition of Wyoming residency is workable and statistically meaningful.

1U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Bureau of the Census, Census 2000 Social, Economic, and Housing Profiles Released for Wyoming, June 4, 2002
<http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/2002/cb02cn114.html> (November 7, 2002).

2U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Bureau of the Census, State and County QuickFacts, “Resident Population and Net Change,” n.d. <http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/meta/long_68166.htm> (November 7, 2002).

3Wyoming Department of Information and Administration, Economic Analysis Division, Wyoming Income, Employment, and Gross State Product Data Notes, June 18, 2002, <http://eadiv.state.wy.us/i&e/i&enotes.htm> (November 7, 2002).

4State of Wyoming, W.S. 22-1-102(a)(xxx)(A), “Wyoming Election Code,” July 1, 2002, <http://legisweb.state.wy.us/statutes/titles/title22/chapter03.htm> (November 7, 2002).

5State of Wyoming, W.S. 39-11-109(c)(i)(D), “Administration,” July 1, 2002, <http://legisweb.state.wy.us/statutes/titles/title39/chapter11.htm> (November 7, 2002).

6University of Wyoming, Petition for Wyoming Resident Tuition Status, March 1999, <http://siswww.uwyo.edu/adm/Residency.htm> (November 7, 2002).

7State of Wyoming, W.S. 23-1-107, “Residency for Obtaining Game and Fish Licenses,” July 1, 2002, <http://legisweb.state.wy.us/statutes/titles/title23/chapter01.htm> (November 7, 2002).

8Hans P. Johnson, Undocumented Immigration to California: 1980-1993, Table 5.5, 1996, <http://ppic.org/publications/PPIC100/PPIC100.pdf/index.html> (November 7, 2002).

9Jeff Hadland, Nonresidents Working in Alaska - 2000.

10Krista Gerth, Tony Glover, and Carol Toups, “Labor Market Areas: Connecting Place of Work to Place of Residence with Administrative Data,” Wyoming Labor Force Trends, September 2001, pp. 1-9, 13.

11Sylvia D. Jones, “2000 Total for All Industries,” Mean Earnings by Age, Gender, and Industry 1997-2000, March 2002, <http://lmi.state.wy.us/wfdemog/2total00.PDF> (November 7, 2002).

12Tony Glover, “Enhancing the Quality of Wage Records for Analysis through Imputation: Part One,” Wyoming Labor Force Trends, April 2001, pp. 9-12 and “Part Two,” Wyoming Labor Force Trends, June 2001, pp. 1-6.

13There were an additional 4,279 individuals who worked in Wyoming during 1999Q4 but whose primary employer was in one of the states with whom we have a data sharing agreement. Wyoming currently has data sharing agreements with Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah.

14Sylvia D. Jones, “Demographic Analysis of Employee Turnover in the Transportation Industry, Fourth Quarter, 1999,” Wyoming Labor Force Trends, August 2001, pp. 10-11.


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