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National Fertility Survey, 1965 (ICPSR 20002)

Alternate Title:  1965 NFS

Principal Investigator(s):


The 1965 National Fertility Survey was the first of three surveys that succeeded the Growth of American Families surveys (1955 and 1960) aimed at examining marital fertility and family planning in the United States. Currently married women were queried on the following main topics: residence history, marital history, education, income and employment, family background, religiosity, attitudes toward contraception and sterilization, birth control pill use and other methods of contraception, fecundity, family size, fertility expectations and intentions, abortion, and world population growth. Respondents were asked about their residence history, including what state they grew up in, whether they had lived with both of their parents at the age of 14, and whether they had spent any time living on a farm. Respondents were also asked a series of questions about their marital history. Specifically, they were asked about the duration of their current marriage, whether their current marriage was their first marriage, total number of times they had been married, how previous marriages ended, length of engagement, and whether their husband had children from a previous marriage. Respondents were asked what was the highest grade of school that they had completed, whether they had attended a co-ed college, and to give the same information about their husbands. Respondents were asked about their 1965 income, both individual and combined, their occupation, whether they had been employed since marriage, if and when they stopped working, and whether they were self-employed. They were also asked about their husband's recent employment status. With respect to family background, respondents were asked about their parents' and their husband's parents' nationalities, education, religious preferences, and total number children born alive to their mother and mother-in-law, respectively. In addition, respondents were asked about their, and their husband's, religious practices including their religious preferences, whether they had ever received any Catholic education, how religious-minded they perceived themselves to be, how often they prayed at home, and how often they went to see a minister, rabbi, or priest. Respondents were asked to give their opinions with respect to contraception and sterilization. They were asked whether they approved or disapproved of contraception in general, as well as specific forms of contraception, whether information about birth control should be available to married and unmarried couples, and whether the federal government should support birth control programs in the United States and in other countries. They were also asked whether they approved or disapproved of sterilization operations for men and women and whether they thought such a surgery would impair a man's sexual ability. Respondents were asked about their own knowledge and use of birth control pills. They were asked if they had ever used birth control pills and when they first began using them. They were then asked to give a detailed account of their use of birth control pills between 1960 and 1965. Respondents were also asked to explain when they discontinued use of birth control pills and what the motivation was for doing so. Respondents were also asked about their reproductive cycle, the most fertile days in their cycle, the regularity of their cycle, and whether there were any known reasons why they could not have or would have problems having children. Respondents were asked about their ideal number of children, whether they had their ideal number of children or if they really wanted fewer children, as well as whether their husbands wanted more or less children than they did. Respondents were then asked how many additional births they expected, how many total births they expected, when they expected their next child, and at what age they expected to have their last child. Respondents were asked how they felt about interrupting a pregnancy and whether they approved of abortion given different circumstances such as if the pregnancy endangered the woman's health, if the woman was not married, if the couple could not afford another child, if the couple did not want another child, if the woman thought the child would be deformed, or if the woman had been raped. Respondents were also asked to share their opinions with respect to world population growth. They were asked whether certain countries' populations were growing faster or slower than the United States, if they considered overall world population growth to be a serious problem, and how serious the problem of population growth, both in the United States and worldwide, was relative to other problems such as poverty and crime. The survey also included a thorough review of all of the respondents' pregnancies and their outcomes.

Series: National Fertility Survey Series

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National Fertility Survey, 1965, Dataset 0001 - Download All Files (82.8 MB)

Study Description


Westoff, Charles F., and Norman B. Ryder. National Fertility Survey, 1965. ICPSR20002-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2008-02-25.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P30 HD008008)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   abortion, attitudes, birth, birth control, birth expectations, education, family history, family planning, family size, fertility, income, population growth, pregnancy, religious beliefs, reproductive history, sexual behavior, world population

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 1965

Date of Collection:  

  • 1965-10--1966-02

Unit of Observation:   individual

Universe:   Currently married women, born after July 1, 1910, living with their husbands, able to participate in an English language interview. The maximum age at the time of the interview was 55.

Data Types:   survey data

Data Collection Notes:

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.

The dataset includes several variables that contain data for questions that had multiple parts, each requiring a yes/no response. For example, Q.263 asked the interviewer whether there were other people present at the interview and gave six options: no one, children under age 6, older children, husband, other relatives, and other adults. For each of these six options, the interviewer responded either "yes, present" [1] or "no, not present" [0]. The original variable (V4) contained a six-digit code that was a combination of ones and zeros that corresponded to the responses given for each of the six parts. In order to be able to analyze the responses to each part, the original variable was recoded into six unique variables (INT_OTH_1 to INT_OTH6), each containing the response to one and only one part of the original question.

Certain variables contain dates that appear as three-digit century month codes. Please see pages 122-123 (the original codebook page numbers are located in the upper right-hand corner) for a translation of the century month codes into standard month and year.

The following variables contain undocumented codes, which are given in parentheses: CH3_DIEDDT, CH5_DIEDDT, CH7_DIEDDT, FEC_PROB2

The following variable contains codes that appear to be outside of the expected range and the documentation does not indicate that the code has any other significance: H_PAR_CEB.

For the following variables, the codebook suggests that any codes greater than 19 have been combined into one code (19=19+), however the data lists all of the codes individually: CH1_NOTOWN3, CH3_NOTOWN3, CH1_BFMO, CH2_BFMO, CH3_BFMO, CH4_BFMO, CH5_BFMO, CH6_BFMO, CH7_BFMO, CH8_BFMO, CH9_BFMO, CH11_BFMO.

Additional information regarding this study is available from the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and at the Data and Information Services Center at the University of Wisconsin.


Sample:   Characteristics of the sampled women were compared with those of women in the same age groups from the March 1965 and March 1966 Current Population Surveys (CPS). Among Black women aged 14-44, there was a considerable discrepancy between the proportion married and living with a husband in the sample (12.9 percent) and the proportion in the CPS surveys (9.4 percent). The proportion of Black women under age 25 was also higher in the sample than in the CPS. The sample also somewhat under-represents women with no children and may over-represent women in the higher education categories, although this comparison can only be estimated.

Weight:   To adjust for differential sampling rates, the following weights must be used: (1) White and other women less than age 45: 1.0, (2) White and other women aged 45-55: 2.0, (3) Black women less than age 45: 0.365863, and (4) Black women aged 45-55: 0.6070.

Mode of Data Collection:   face-to-face interview

Response Rates:   A total of 5,617 woman were interviewed out of the original 6,397 eligible woman, yielding a response rate of approximately 88 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:

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


Original ICPSR Release:  

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