Growth of American Families, 1955 (ICPSR 20000)

Version Date: Nov 17, 2009 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Ronald Freedman, University of Michigan. Survey Research Center; Arthur A. Campbell, Miami University. Scripps Foundation for Research in Population Problems; Pascal K. Whelpton, Miami University. Scripps Foundation for Research in Population Problems


Version V2

1955 GAF

The 1955 Growth of American Families survey was the first in a series of surveys (later becoming the National Fertility Survey) that measured women's attitudes on various topics related to fertility and family planning. The sample was composed of 2,713 married women aged 18-39 living in the United States. The survey included the following main subjects: residence history, marital history, education, income, occupation and employment, religiosity, family background, attitude toward contraception, contraception use, pregnancies and births, fecundity, opinions on childbearing and rearing, and fertility expectations. Respondents were asked questions pertaining to their residence history, including if they owned or rented their home, and if they lived on a farm. A series of questions also dealt with the respondents' marital history, including when they first married and the month and year of subsequent marriages. Respondents were also asked to describe the level of education they had attained and that of their husbands. Respondents were also asked to give information with respect to income, both individual and household, and if their financial situation was better now compared to five years ago. Respondents were queried on their occupation, specifically on what exactly they did and in what kind of business. Similar questions were asked about their husbands' occupations. Also, they were asked what their reasons were for working. The survey sought information about the respondents' religious affiliation and with what frequency they attended church. Respondents were asked how many brothers and sisters they had as well as their attitude about the number of siblings in their household. Also included was a series of questions regarding the respondents' attitudes toward family planning. Respondents were asked if they and their husband thought it was acceptable for couples to use contraceptives to limit the size of their family. They were also queried about what specific methods of contraception they had used in the past, and after which pregnancy they started using a particular method. Respondents were asked whether they or their husband had had surgery to make them sterile and if there was any other reason to believe that they could not have children. Respondents were also asked if they thought raising a family was easier or harder now than when they were a child. Respondents were also asked what they believed was the ideal number of children for the average American family and what the ideal number of children would be, if at age 45, they could start their married life over. Other questions addressed how many children respondents expected to have before their family was completed and their reason for not wanting more or less than that number. Each respondent was also asked when she expected her next child.

Freedman, Ronald, Campbell, Arthur A., and Whelpton, Pascal K. Growth of American Families, 1955. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-11-17.

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Rockefeller Foundation
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

The original variable names, as documented in the codebook, have been changed. However, the original variable names may be referenced and can be found in brackets at the end of each variable label. Because these variable names are simply the letter "V" followed by the variable number, they correspond to the variable number column in the codebook index.

Value labels for this data were taken from the original codebook. The variable RES_CCODE contains two values (14 and 15) that have the same label ("Chicago City"), which may be an error. In addition, for the variable REL_PREF, the following values are missing labels in the original study documentation: 10, 21, 30.

Additional information regarding this study is available from the Data and Information Services Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The variable label for ATT_REASNOMOREX1, ATT_REASNOMOREX2, ATT_REASNOMOREX3, and ATT_CHANGEMORE2 and the value labels associated with EMP_5YRSAGO, ATT_WANT45, ATT_WANTB4MAR, and EXP_TOT have been updated. In addition, question text has been added to the Variable Description and Frequencies in the ICPSR codebook and SDA for this collection.

Using an area probability sampling method, 2,978 eligible married women were selected from 8,305 occupied dwelling units. Of those, 153 women refused to be interviewed, and 132 were unavailable due to illness, disability, or because they were not at home after repeated followup visits.

Currently married white women aged 18-39, living in private households, who were either living with their husbands or temporarily separated because of the husband's military service.

survey data

Of the 2,978 eligible married women, 2,713 completed surveys were collected, yielding a response rate of 91.1 percent.


2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • Freedman, Ronald, Arthur A. Campbell, and Pascal K. Whelpton. Growth of American Families, 1955. ICPSR20000-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-11-17.

2009-11-17 The SPSS, SAS and Stata setup files, the SPSS and Stata system files, the SAS transport (CPORT) file, codebook, and SDA for this collection have been updated.

2008-07-07 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:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Created online analysis version with question text.


  • Data in this collection are available only to users at ICPSR member institutions.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. Please see version history for more details.
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