Data Sharing for Demographic Research

This study was originally processed, archived, and disseminated by Data Sharing for Demographic Research (DSDR), a project funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

National Survey of Families and Households, Wave 1: 1987-1988 (ICPSR 6041)

Alternate Title:   NSFH, Wave 1

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


The National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), Wave 1 (1987-1988) is the first of three waves in a longitudinal survey that was designed to study the causes and consequences of changes happening in families and households within the United States. At a time when the range of family structures was becoming more and more diverse, this study permitted a close examination of the resulting family compositions and household operations. One adult per household was randomly selected as the primary respondent, and there was a total of 13,007 respondents. In addition to the main interview conducted with the primary respondent, a shorter, self-administered questionnaire was given to the spouse or cohabitating partner, and also administered to the householder if he or she was a relative of the primary respondent.

A considerable amount of life-history information was collected, such as the respondent's family living arrangements in childhood, departures and returns to the parental home, and histories of marriage, separation, divorce, cohabitation, adoption, child custody arrangements, and stepfamily relations. Respondents were also asked about the relationship of household members to each other and the quality of their relationships with their parents, children, and in-laws. Information on economic well-being was also collected, including earnings from wages, self-employment income, interest, dividends, investments, pensions, Social Security, public assistance, and child support/alimony. Demographic information collected includes sex, age, marital status, education, and employment.

Series: National Survey of Families and Households Series

Access Notes

  • 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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Study Description


Bumpass, Larry L., James A. Sweet, and Vaughn R.A. Call. National Survey of Families and Households, Wave 1: 1987-1988. ICPSR06041-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2017-08-31.

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Export Citation:

  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote XML (EndNote X4.0.1 or higher)


This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Center for Population Research (HD-21009)
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Aging (P30 AG017266)
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Aging (R03 AG045503)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    adoption, child custody, child support, divorce, education, families, family life, family relationships, family structure, fertility, financial assets, household composition, income, job history, life events, life history, living arrangements, marital relationships, parental attitudes, psychological wellbeing, social contact, stepfamilies, wages and salaries

Smallest Geographic Unit:    Region

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1987-03--1988-05

Date of Collection:   

  • 1987-03-06--1988-05-12

Unit of Observation:    Individual

Universe:    Non-institutionalized, English or Spanish speaking population aged 19 and older, living in households within the United States.

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

Two percent of the interviews were conducted in Spanish.

Fieldwork for Wave 1 of the National Survey of Families and Households was completed by the Institute for Survey Research at Temple University

The second and third waves of NSFH can be accessed by visiting ICPSR 6906 and ICPSR 171 respectively.

For additional information on the National Survey of Families and Households, please visit the NSFH Web site.


Study Purpose:    This study has been undertaken explicitly to provide a data resource for the research community at large and was designed with advice from a large number of consultants and correspondents. The substantive coverage has been kept broad to permit the holistic analysis of family experience from an array of theoretical perspectives.

Study Design:    The study design is cross-sectional, with several retrospective sequences.

Sample:    The National Survey of Families and Households main sample was a national, multi-stage area probability sample containing about 17,000 housing units drawn from 100 sampling areas in the 48 contiguous states in the U.S. Wave one had 13,017 respondents, of which 10 invalid/duplicate cases were removed, for a final total of 13,007 respondents. The sample included a main cross-section sample of 9,643 households. The oversample of blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, single-parent families and families with stepchildren, cohabiting couples and recently married was accomplished by doubling the number of households selected within the 100 sampling areas. For more information on sampling, please see Appendix L: National Survey of Families and Households: A Sampling Report within the P.I. Codebook.

Time Method:    Longitudinal: Panel

Weight:    The data are not weighted, however, this study contains three weight variables (SAMWT, AWEIGHT, and SPWEIGHT) that should be used in any analysis.

Mode of Data Collection:    face-to-face interview, self-enumerated questionnaire

Response Rates:    74.3%

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:   1994-05-20

Version History:

  • 2017-08-31 Ten invalid cases have been omitted from the data collection. This collection has also been fully curated to include ASCII, R, tab-delimited, SPSS, SAS, and Stata data files and PDF versions of study documentation.

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