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How Couples Meet and Stay Together (HCMST), Wave 1 2009, Wave 2 2010, Wave 3 2011, Wave 4 2013, United States (ICPSR 30103)

Principal Investigator(s):


How Couples Meet and Stay Together (HCMST) surveyed how Americans met their spouses and romantic partners, and compared traditional to non-traditional couples. This collection covers data that was gathered over four waves. Demographic information includes age, race/ethnicity, gender, level of education, household composition, religion, political party affiliation, and household income. During the first wave, respondents were asked about their relationship status, including the gender, ethnicity, and race of their current partner, as well as the level of education of their parents. They were also asked about their living arrangements with their partner, the country, state, and city the respondent and/or the respondent's partner resided in most from birth to age 16, and whether the couple attended the same high school/college/university, or grew up in the same town. Information was collected on the legal status of the relationship, the city/state where the partnership was legalized, and how many times the respondent had previously been married. Additionally, respondents were asked about how often they visited with relatives, which gender they were most attracted to, their earned income in 2008, and the length of their current relationship. Finally, respondents were asked to recall how, when, and where they met their partner, how their parents felt about their partner, and to describe the perceived quality of their relationship. The second wave followed up with respondents one year after wave 1. Information was collected on respondents' changes, if any, in marital status, relationship status, living arrangements, and reasons for separation where applicable. The third wave followed up with respondents one year after the second wave, and collected information on respondents' relationships reported in the first two waves, again including any changes in the status of the relationship and reasons for separation. The fourth wave followed up with respondents two years after Wave 3. In addition to information on relationship status and reasons for separation, Wave 4 includes the subjective level of attractiveness for the respondent and their partner. The data is being released in two parts: part one is available for public use and part two is available for restricted use. The public use data contains waves 1-4, including the addition of nine variables collecting information such as race, household income, whether the respondent was born outside of the United States, zip code relative to rural area, and respondents' living arrangements between birth and 16 years of age. The restricted use data contains waves 1-3, and differs from the public use data by including FIPS codes for state of marriage and state of residence, town or city where the respondent was raised, and qualitative variables revised by the Principal Investigator (Q24 and Q35), consisting of respondent's answers to how they first met their partner and the quality of their relationship in their own words.

Access Notes

  • One or more files in this study are not available for download due to special restrictions ; consult the restrictions note to learn more. You can apply online for access to the data. A login is required to apply for access.

    The variables PPZIPCODE, Q18B, Q18C, RECODED_OREGONIANS, MARRYSTATEFIPS, MARRYSTATE, CIVILSTATE, CIVILSTATEFIPS, W3_Q7_SSC_MARRY_STATE, W3_Q8_SSC_DOM_PARTNER_STATE, PPSTATEN, PP2_PPSTATEN, PP3_PPSTATEN, Q15A2, and Q15A3 are only being made available in the restricted use version of this data. Additionally, variables Q24 and Q35 are being provided in a tab-separated ASCII file for restricted use only.


DS0:  Study-Level Files
DS1:  Public Use Data - Download All Files (27.1 MB)
SAS    SPSS    Stata    R    ASCII    Excel/TSV
ASCII + SAS Setup    SPSS Setup    Stata Setup   
Analyze Online:
DS2:  Restricted Use Data
No downloadable data files available.

Study Description


Rosenfeld, Michael J., Reuben J. Thomas, and Maja Falcon. How Couples Meet and Stay Together (HCMST), Wave 1 2009, Wave 2 2010, Wave 3 2011, Wave 4 2013, United States. ICPSR30103-v7. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2014-09-02. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR30103.v7

Persistent URL:

Export Citation:

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  • EndNote XML (EndNote X4.0.1 or higher)


This study was funded by:

  • Stanford University. Institute for Research in the Social Sciences
  • National Science Foundation (NSF SES-0751977, SES-1153867)
  • Stanford University. UPS Endowment

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   civil union, dating (social), divorce, domestic partnership, gays and lesbians, gender, living arrangements, love, marital status, marriage, physical appearance, religious affiliation, same-sex marriage, sexual preference

Smallest Geographic Unit:   Census region (public use); State (restricted use)

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2013

Date of Collection:  

  • 2009-02--2009-04
  • 2010-03--2010-06
  • 2011-03--2011-08
  • 2013-03--2013-11

Unit of Observation:   Individual

Universe:   English speaking adults in the United States.

Data Types:   survey data

Data Collection Notes:

The survey was carried out by the survey firm Knowledge Networks.

The codebook and setup files for the restricted use dataset contain characters with diacritical marks used in many European languages.

Indirect Identifiers: To limit possible disclosure risk, the state identification variables Q15A2, Q15A3, RECODED_OREGONIANS, MARRYSTATEFIPS, MARRYSTATE, CIVILSTATE, CIVILSTATEFIPS, PPSTATEN, PP2_STATEN, PP3_PPSTATEN, Q18B, Q18C, W3_Q7_SSC_MARRY_STATE, and W3_Q8_SSC_DOM_PARTNER_STATE, and time of interview variables TM_START, TM_FINISH, W2_TM_START, and W2_TM_FINISH have been dropped from the public use data.

The public use data contains waves 1-4. The restricted use data contains waves 1-3.

Additional information on this study can be found by visiting the How Couples Meet and Stay Together Web site.


Study Design:   The survey was carried out by survey firm Knowledge Networks. The survey respondents were recruited from an ongoing panel. Panelists are recruited via random digit dial phone survey. Survey questions were mostly answered online; some follow-up surveys were conducted by phone. Panelists who did not have internet access at home were given an internet access device (WebTV). For further information about how the Knowledge Networks hybrid phone-internet survey compares to other survey methodology, see the accompanying documentation.

Sample:   There were 4,002 original survey respondents from members of Knowledge Network's Nationally Representative Survey Panel. Subsequent waves included the 3,009 survey respondents who were partnered at the time of the main survey, minus the respondents who reported having broken up with their partner or the partner passed away by each previous wave. Please see the "Brief Guide to data sources and variables in the public HCMST" within the ICPSR codebook for further information.

Time Method:   Longitudinal: Panel

Weight:   The data are not weighted; however, this collection contains eight weight variables; WEIGHT1-WEIGHT7 and WEIGHT_COUPLES_CORESIDENT. Please refer to the ICPSR codebook for further information about weighting.

Mode of Data Collection:   computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI), web-based survey

Response Rates:   Response to Wave 1 (main survey) was 71 percent. Response to Wave 2 (follow-up survey) one year later was 84 percent. Response to Wave 3 (follow-up survey) one year later was 72.9 percent. Response to Wave 4 (follow-up survey) was 60 percent.

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2014-09-02 Wave 4 variables have been added to the public use data.
  • 2013-01-16 The citation has been updated to include an additional PI. Variables Q24 and Q35 are being released as restricted use only.
  • 2013-01-03 Nine variables have been added to the public use collection and 19 variables have been added to the restricted use collection.
  • 2012-05-25 The citation has been updated to include an additional PI.
  • 2012-04-06 The data have been further processed by the principal investigator. In addition, a number of variables have been added to the data set.
  • 2011-11-22 In order to prevent disclosure risk, several variables were dropped from the public use file.

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