National Survey of Families and Households: Wave I, 1987-1988, and Wave II, 1992-1994 (ICPSR 6906)

Published: May 16, 1997

Principal Investigator(s):
Larry L. Bumpass, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Center for Demography and Ecology; James A. Sweet, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Center for Demography and Ecology


Version V1

The National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) provides data on the family experience in the United States. At a time when the range of family structures is becoming more and more diverse, this study permits a close examination of the resulting family compositions and household operations. Data were gathered on the composition of families, family background, and on the relationship of household members to each other, including marriage, separation, and divorce histories, adoption, child custody arrangements, and stepfamily relations. Respondents were also asked about the quality of their relationships with their parents, children, and in-laws. Information on economic well-being is also provided, including earnings from wages, self-employment income, interest, dividends, investments, pensions, Social Security, public assistance, and child support/alimony. Demographic variables include sex, age, and marital status. For Wave I of the NSFH, which was conducted from March 1987 through May 1988, one adult, the primary respondent, was chosen from each of the households in the sample. In addition to the main interview conducted with the primary respondent, a shorter, self-administered questionnaire was given to the spouse or cohabiting partner of the primary respondent. The NSFH Wave I sample was reinterviewed for the second wave of the survey, which was conducted from 1992 through August of 1994. The Wave II survey included the following components: (1) an interview of all surviving members of the original sample via face-to-face personal interview, (2) a personal interview with the current spouse or cohabiting partner almost identical to the interview with the main respondent, (3) a personal interview with the original spouse or partner of the primary respondent in cases where this relationship had ended, (4) a telephone interview with "focal children" who were originally aged 13-18 in Wave I, (5) a short telephone interview with "focal children" who were originally aged 5-12 in Wave I, (6) short proxy interviews with a surviving spouse or other relative in cases where the original respondent had died or was too ill to interview, and (7) a telephone interview with a randomly-selected parent of the main respondent. Part 1 of this collection contains Wave I data, and Parts 2-16 provide data for Wave II.

Bumpass, Larry L., and Sweet, James A. National Survey of Families and Households:  Wave I, 1987-1988, and Wave II, 1992-1994. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1997-05-16.

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(1) This data collection includes an updated version of Wave I data (nine invalid cases were deleted, a small number of respondent sex codes were changed, and changes were made to the documentation), as well as the addition of previously unreleased Wave II data from the survey, representing the complete National Survey of Families and Households. As such, it supersedes the Wave I data that were released in the NATIONAL SURVEY OF FAMILIES AND HOUSEHOLDS, 1987-1988 (ICPSR 6041). (2) Two percent of the interviews were conducted in Spanish. (3) The skip maps are available only in hardcopy form upon request from ICPSR. (4) Lists of additional related publications and papers are contained in the codebook documentation. (5) This ICPSR release of the NSFH consists of the March 1997 version of this data collection. (6) Users of the NSFH data should consult the NSFH website at to check for periodic updates of the data. The website also offers a bibliography, working papers, and other information about NSFH. Users may also contact the ICPSR resource person for this site at

National, stratified, multistage area probability sample based on 1985 population projections for Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas and nonmetropolitan counties. Minorities (Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Chicanos), single parents, persons with stepchildren, cohabiting persons, and persons who were recently married were double-sampled.

Noninstitutionalized population aged 19 and older or married in the contiguous United States.

personal interviews and self-enumerated questionnaires

survey data




  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

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This study is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA), the aging program within ICPSR. NACDA is sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Heath (NIH).