Marital Status, Marital Transitions and Attitudes

Marital Status, Marital Transitions and Attitudes

Created Variables

MARITAL STATUS: These variables contain the respondent's marital status at each interview date.
MARITAL STATUS COLLAPSED:  These variables contain the respondent's marital status at each interview date, collapsed into three primary categories ("never married," "married spouse present," or "other").
AGE 1ST/2ND/ETC. MARRIAGE BEGAN/ENDED: These XRND variables contain constructed marital transition data out to the month and year for all marriages.
RELATIONSHIP HISTORY (SPOUSE/PARTNER ON HOUSEHOLD ROSTER, ID NUMBER OF SPOUSE/PARTNER): These XRND variables contain a sequential identification number for a spouse/partner if one is listed on the household roster, and a code reflecting whether the person listed is a spouse or a partner.
NUMSPPTR##: The number of the spouse/partners reported as of most recent interview date
RELSPPTR##: Relationship code for spouse/partner at most recent interview date

 

Important Information About Using Marital Status, Marital Transitions and Attitudes Data

Collection of information on partners as distinguished from spouses has varied over time in the NLSY79.  To some extent, the term "Partner" is used more interchangeably in sections of the questionnaire such as "Fertility" and "Childcare" than in sections such as "Marriage" and "Income and Assets," where items may specifically include or exclude partners.  Do not to assume the interchangeability of terms and carefully check the wording of all the questionnaire items of this type that are of interest. A detailed memo, "Inconsistencies in the NLSY79 Marital History Data" (Haurin 1988), identifies those respondents whose marital histories through the 1986 survey contained inconsistencies; it also summarizes the edits made, if any, to each case during preparation of the 1986 Supplemental Fertility File (area of interest "Fertility and Relationship History/Created"). Researchers using the constructed marriage dates should be aware that there is a very small percentage of people who have ended their third marriage or have entered a subsequent one.  The use of information from the Information Sheet to designate respondents' current marital status is not encouraged because this information is dated.  However, Information Sheet data do permit users to detect inconsistencies reported over time.  The program statements used to create marital status for the 1992 survey years are listed in Table 2.  Creation procedures for other years after 1988 are almost identical to the procedure presented here, except that different reference numbers are used in the 1989-1996 PL/1 code and the code was converted to SPSS in 1998 and is now in SAS.  Prior to 1988, interview checks verifying marital status at the previous interview did not exist in the questionnaire; marital status was created based on the last actual stated change rather than an interviewer check or verification of the status last reported.  General information regarding creation of the Supplemental Fertility File (area of interest "Fertility and Relationship History/Created"), including marital transition data, age at first marriage, and months between first marriage and first birth, is found in "Appendix 5: Supplemental Fertility Files" in the NLSY79 Codebook Supplement.

Marital Status 

Marital status information for NLSY79 respondents is available from:

  • responses to questions fielded during the annual or biennial surveys
  • two sets of created variables specifying marital status as of the interview date
  • an item on the marital status of each respondent as of the previous interview derived from the interviewing aid called the Information Sheet

Table 1. Year-by-Year Variations in Marital Status Data Collection

Year(s) Marital Status data collected
1978 (household screener) The marital status of household members is available from the 1978 household screening only, for example 'Household Screener:  Family Member #1 - Marital Status.' Categories include "presently married," "widowed," "divorced," "separated," and "never married/annulled."
1979 The marital status of each respondent, that is, whether he or she was married, widowed, divorced, separated, or never married, was collected during the 1979 survey and is available as a single variable, 'Marital Status.' 
1980-87 Interviews collected change in marital status information. Prior to 1982, presence of a partner was indicated by an interview check coded "yes" if the respondent lived with one unrelated adult of the opposite sex ('Int Check - Does R Live With Opposite Sex Adult as a Partner').  Since 1987, only one version of the Household Interview Form has been used; all respondents not living with a spouse have been asked about opposite-sex partners.  The partner variable originating from the household interview is titled 'Currently Living as Partner with Opposite Sex Adult'.
Beginning in 1988 'Current Marital Status' interview checks are included in the questionnaire to verify separately the marital status of respondents who report a change in status since the date of last interview and respondents who do not.

Marital History/Transitions 

A series of edited Supplemental Fertility File variables (area of interest "Fertility and Relationship History/Created") that reflects the beginning and ending dates of marriages was constructed for all marriages through the present.  These variables include the month and year the respondent began a marriage and the month and year a marriage ended, for example, 'Month Began 1st Marriage.'  The unedited data items include the month and year of each reported marital transition and type of transition.  Users should note that a separate category for the transition to "reunited" was not added until the 1981 survey.  Evaluations of the marital history data for the NLSY79 can be found in Haurin (1988, 1994).  A related variable, also located in the "Fertility and Relationship History/Created" area of interest, provides the number of months between the respondent's first marriage and the birth of the respondent's first child.

Cohabitation

The following cohabitation information is available from the 1990 and 1992-2012 surveys: 

  • the month and year the respondent and his or her opposite-sex partner began living together
  • whether the respondent lived with his or her spouse before marriage
  • the month and year the respondent and his or her spouse began living together
  • whether the respondent and his or her spouse lived together continuously until marriage

A household member's relationship to the respondent may be listed as "partner" in the Household Record.  This is true regardless of whether the "partner" is of the same or opposite sex as the respondent.  However, through 1996 only opposite-sex partners are referenced during the interview for questions relating to household, income, and dating/relationship.  After 1998 information on all partners is collected.

Beginning in 2002, respondents were asked detailed questions about their cohabitation experiences during any unmarried spell lasting three months or longer.  First, respondents were asked about marital status and changes in marital status. If any unmarried gap lasting three months or more was identified, respondents were asked if they ever lived with anyone as a domestic partner for three months or more since the last interview.  If respondents answered affirmatively, they were then asked specifically about each unmarried gap of three months or greater.

For each unmarried gap, respondents were asked the following series of questions:  First, respondents were reminded of the marital status they reported during the gap and asked if they lived with someone as a domestic partner during that period. If a partner was reported, respondents provided information on the date on which they began cohabiting, whether they cohabited with this partner continuously until the current interview date and, if not, the date they stopped cohabiting with this partner during the specific gap.  After these questions were answered, the dates were compared.  If the unaccounted-for remainder of the specific gap was three months or more, the respondent was asked if they lived with any other partner during that gap for three months or more.  If the answer was “yes,” the questions were repeated for the next partner during that gap.  This entire series of questions was then repeated for each eligible three-month-plus unmarried gap.

Spousal Characteristics

Information collected as part of the Household Record is available for spouses and partners at each survey point if they are listed as members of the household.  Users first need to identify the appropriate relationship to the respondent (that is, code "1" for spouse; code "33" for partner) through variables that are specific for this purpose.  Typically, information on the age, relationship to respondent, highest grade of schooling completed, and employment in the past calendar year is collected during each survey.  See "Household Composition" for information on specific characteristics.  In addition to information available from the Household Record, additional information has been collected on the spouse as part of the Marital History section of the questionnaire.  Users should consult each relevant survey year's questionnaire or codebook to ascertain the specific items collected in the given year.  Information on income has been selectively collected for the respondent's spouse or partner.  Users should see the topical section on "Income" in this guide for further details.   

Table 2. Selected questions relating to spouses throughout the survey years

Variable 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 96 98 00 02 04 06 08 10 12
Spouse specific (spouse/partner collected in same question series beginning in 1994)
Spouse present on household enumeration; if present, relationship to youth confirmed, highest grade completed, age, gender, work in last calendar year * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  *  *  * *  *  *  *
Dates/types of marital status change (marriage, separation, divorce, widowed) *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Is spouse a new spouse                               * * * * * * * * *  *
Past spouse's race                                             *    *
Month/year of birth of spouse * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  *  *  * *  *  *  *
Religious affiliation (raised in and present) and current attendance       *                             * * * * * *  *
Cohabit with spouse prior to marriage, date began living together, live together continuously before marriage                       * * * * * * * * * * * * *  *
Current/new spouse's prior marriage history (# prior  marriages, age at 1st marriage, duration of most recent prior marriage, how most recent prior marriage ended) (1982 - # marriages including to R only)        *                           * * * * * * *  *
Spouse enrolled in regular school since last interview   * *  *                                          
Spouse occupation * *  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  *
Rate of pay * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  *
Shift worked by spouse       *        *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Labor force activity survey week                    *  *  *  *  *  *                    
Weeks not working past calendar year * *  *  *  *  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  *
Weeks looking for work/on layoff past calendar year       * * * * * * * * * * * *                    
Number of weeks worked, number of hours usually worked in past calendar year *  * *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Source of health insurance coverage                      *  *    *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Health limitations of spouse/effect on r's work       *                                          
Contraceptive use r/spouse/partner        *    *  *  *    *    *    *    *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Pregnancy wantedness (ask of females about husbands/partners)        *  *  *    *      *    *    *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Partner pregnant (asked of males about partners)             *  *  *    *    *        *                  
Child care when spouse working             *  *                                    
Relationship quality (mothers in 1988, females in other years)                    *        *  *  *  *  *  *  * *  *  *  *  *
Unemployment compensation (past calendar year through 1992, event history since last interview after 1992)   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Income (military)  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Income (wages and earnings)  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Income (business/farm)   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Educational benefits received  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Child support (questions vary through survey rounds)                              *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Define retirement (choice = when spouse stops working/reduces hours) (2006 experimental group)                                             *  *  *  *
Immigration - was R the spouse of a principle entrant; status of principle entrant visa, relationship to sponsor                         *                          
Sequential id # of spouse/partner, identification as spouse/partner (created variables)   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *      
R/spouse (not separable)
Money/time donated to various charitable entities                                                 *  *
Lose any time at work in past 4  weeks due to no child care                 *    *                              
AFDC/TANF, Food Stamps, SSI (past calendar year through 1992, even history since last interview after 1992)   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Targeted cash or non-cash assistance (event history from beginning of survey year)                                     *              
Targeted benefits from public assistance program (gas vouchers, child care and so forth)                                       *            
Receive veap/educational benefits from military   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Value, amount owed on vehicles owned   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Market value residential property               *  *  *  *  *  *    *  *  *  *  *  *    *    *    *
Amount child support paid past calendar year         *  *  *  *  *  *  *            *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Alimony paid past calendar year         *  *  *  *  *  *  *                              
Possession of various assets               *  *  *  *  *  *    *  *  *  *    *    *    *    *
Assets market value/debt  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *    *  *  *  *    *    *    *    *
Amount spent on food, other than food stamps                         *  *  *  *  *                  
Rights to/income or property from inheritance or trust (questions vary)                     *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Attend meetings organized by r/spouse employer (2006 experimental group)                                             *  *  *  *
Related variables                      
Age R expects to marry   *                                                
Dating behaviors and attitudes (unmarried females) (attitudes oldest child)                     *        *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
Likelihood of marriage in future (not currently married)                     *        *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Marital Attitudes and Expectations

A series of relationship satisfaction questions were asked during the 1988, 1992, and 1994-2012 interviews of those mothers living with a spouse or opposite-sex partner.  These questions dealt with both positive and negative interactions in the relationship, for example, 'Frequency R and Husband/Partner Calmly Discuss Something' and 'Frequency R and Husband/Partner Argue About - Money.' In addition, mothers without a spouse or partner were asked for information on 'Frequency R Goes Out on Dates,' whether the 'Oldest Child Encourage(s) R's Dating,' and 'Likelihood of Marriage in the Future.'  In 1979, all never married respondents were asked for information on 'Age Expects to Marry.'

Environmental Characteristic Data 

For the 1979-82 interview years, the Geocode CD includes marriage and divorce rates and percent of families with female heads of household for the county and SMSA in which the respondent resided.  These statistics are taken from the 1972 and 1977 County & City Data Books.  From 1983 until 1998, marriage and divorce rates and the number of families with a female head are included for county of residence only, based on statistics from the 1983 and 1988 County & City Data Books.  The 2000 release includes the same information based on statistics from the 1988 and 1994 County & City Data Books.

Table 3. Expanded and Collapsed Marital Status: NLSY79 1992

/* EXPANDED &COLLAPSED MARITAL STATUS 1992*/
MARST_EXPAND=-4;
MARST_COLLAP=-4;
IF WEIGHT92=0 THEN DO;
MARST_EXPAND=-5;
MARST_COLLAP=-5;
END;
ELSE DO;
IF R(37017.)>=0 THEN MARST_EXPAND=R(37017.);
ELSE IF R(37030.)>0 THEN MARST_EXPAND=R(37030.);
IF MARST_EXPAND=0 THEN MARST_COLLAP=1;
ELSE IF MARST_EXPAND=1 & SPOU92=1 THEN MARST_COLLAP=2;
ELSE IF MARST_EXPAND>0 THEN MARST_COLLAP=3;
ELSE MARST_COLLAP=-3;
END;
MARST_COLLAP=R(40072.);
MARST_EXPAND=R(40073.);
 
/* SPOU92 INDICATES IF A SPOUSE IS LIVING IN THE HOUSEHOLD (0=NO, 1=YES).*/

TO CREATE SPOU92:

  1. INITIALIZE SPOU92=0.
  2. SET SPOU92=-5 IF NOT INTERVIEWED IN 1992 (I.E., IF WEIGHT92=0).

SEARCH THROUGH THE HOUSEHOLD ENUMERATION AND COMPUTE SPOU92=1
IF THE RELATIONSHIP TO YOUTH IS CODED AS A SPOUSE (CODE=1). */