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How Couples Meet and Stay Together (HCMST), Wave I 2009, Wave II 2010, Wave III 2011, United States (ICPSR 30103) RSS

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 study was conducted in three waves. During the first wave, information was gathered about both the respondent and their partner including age, level of education, parents' level of education, religion, and their political party affiliation. Respondents were queried on their relationship status (married, boyfriend/girlfriend, sexual partner, romantic partner) as well as the gender, ethnicity, and race of their current partner. They were also asked about their living arrangements with their partner such as whether they lived in a house, apartment, etc. Additionally, respondents were asked the country, state, and city the respondent and/or the respondent's partner resided in most from birth to age 16, whether the couple was currently living together or had ever lived together, 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 (marriage, domestic partnership, or civil union), the city/state where the partnership was legalized, and how many times the respondent had previously been married. Respondents were also queried 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, and 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. This version of the data is being released in two parts, with part one a public use and part two a restricted use. The public use release contains the addition of nine variables including demographic information such as race, household income, whether the respondent was born outside of the United States, whether their zip code was located within a rural area, and where the respondent spent most of his or her time living between birth and 16 years old. The restricted use version contains the previous variables as well as FIPS codes for state of marriage and state of residence, town or city where the respondent was raised, and variables revised by the Principal Investigator (Q24 and Q35), consisting of respondent 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 study. Additionally, variables Q24 and Q35 are being provided in a tab-separated ASCII file for restricted use only.


DS0:  Study-Level Files
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 I 2009, Wave II 2010, Wave III 2011, United States. ICPSR30103-v5. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2013-01-16. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR30103.v5

Persistent URL:

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This study was funded by:

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

Scope of Study

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

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011

Date of Collection:  

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

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 this collection 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 data have been further processed by the principal investigator. Please see the "Processing Notes" section of the ICPSR codebook for additional information.


Sample:   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.

Weight:   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 I (main survey) was 71 percent. Response to Wave II (follow-up survey) one year later was 84 percent. Response to Wave III (follow-up survey) one year later was 72.9 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:

  • 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.

Related Publications (see Notes)


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