Parent Characteristics

Parent Characteristics

Created Variables

CV_HH_NET_WORTH_P. Net worth of the household if youth was not independent (see independence criteria in Income, Assets & Program Participation: An Introduction) and parent was interviewed in Round 1. Available for Round 1 only. Based on parent data and calculated by subtracting total debts from total assets. If the youth was independent, CV_HH_NET_WORTH_Y was created.

CV_HH_INCOME_SOURCE. Household income source: parent or youth interview. Round 1 only.

CV_INCOME_GROSS_YR. Gross household income in the previous year. Available for independent youth. In round 1, this variable was based on parent data when the youth was not independent. This variable is only created through round 7; a similar variable, CV_INCOME_FAMILY, was created starting in round 8, measuring only the income of family members in the household.

CV_HH_POV_RATIO. A ratio comparing the gross household income variable (rounds 1-7) or the gross family income variable (rounds 8 and up) to the federal poverty level for previous year, taking household size into account. In round 1, this was based on parent data.

CV_BIO_MOM_AGE_CHILD1. Age of the youth's biological mother when she gave birth to her first child, based on information from the household and nonresident relative rosters. Round 1 variable.

CV_BIO_MOM_AGE_YOUTH. Mother's age when she gave birth to the youth respondent. Round 1 variable.

CV_DISTANCE_MOM_COL and CV_DISTANCE_DAD_COL. Provide the distance in miles between the respondent's address and the reported address of the respondent's mother and father. Available for rounds 7 to 13. Note: Addresses that were not full street addresses were given the longitude and latitude of the centroid of their zipcodes. Data quality variables (CV_DISTANCE_MOM_QUALITY, for example) were created to indicate whether or not the addresses were zip centroided.

CV_BIOMOM_REGION, CV_BIODAD_REGION. Regions (US, Mexico, Canada, etc.) where the respondent's biological mother and father were born. Available only on the geocode CD.

CV_MAT_GRNDMOM_REGION, CV_MAT_GRNDDAD_REGION. Region (US, Mexico, Canada, etc.) where the respondent's maternal grandmother and grandfather were born. Available only on the geocode CD.

CV_PAT_GRNDMOM_REGION, CV_PAT_GRNDDAD_REGION. Regions (US, Mexico, Canada, etc.) where the respondent's paternal grandmother and grandfather were born. Available only on the geocode CD.

FP_PPRELIG. Religiosity of respondent parent. Created by Child Trends, Inc., the scale is based on the religious beliefs and practices questions in round 1. See Codebook Supplement Appendix 9 for more information.


Important Information About Using Parent Characteristics Data

1. The Household Income Update was administered only once per round in households with more than one NLSY97 respondent. In round 2, the information provided by the parent was attached to the records of all the NLSY97 respondents who lived in the round 1 household. This means, for example, that if one respondent had left the household to live with a different parent between rounds 1 and 2 but the siblings remained in the original household, that respondent would have the same Household Income Update information that was provided by the parent in the original household. In rounds 3-5, the instrument reflects the youth's actual household at the time of that survey. Please note that created income variables were based on youth reports even in years where Household Income Updates were available.

2. Users should exercise caution when drawing conclusions based on parent characteristics in the NLSY97 data. The large number of multiple respondent households in the sample may skew the data on certain characteristics if the analysis is performed at the respondent level rather than at the parent level.

3. Basic demographic information about the responding parent and his or her spouse or partner is also available in the household roster. The content and structure of the household roster are discussed in detail in Household Composition.

4. To find the responding parent's spouse or partner on the household roster, researchers must use the HHI2 relationship variables.  Researchers should begin this process by determining the ID number of the responding parent (R07350.). The value of this variable indicates the position of the responding parent on the roster.  The next step is to look at the household relationship variables for the responding parent.  Codes of 1 (wife), 2 (husband), and 69 (partner) indicate that the household member is the responding parent's spouse or partner. For example, if the responding parent is number 3, the user would examine the variables for the relationship of member 3 to member 1, member 3 to member 2, member 3 to member 4, and so on.  If the variable for member 4 had a code of 2, then member 4 would be the responding parent's husband.

5. Regarding parent's origin: The commonwealth of Puerto Rico is listed as both a country (P2-002) and as a U.S. territory (P2-007). In addition, Quebec is listed as a country separate from Canada. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is not listed; respondents specify England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales.

6. Researchers using income and asset data should be aware of survey practices with respect to item nonresponse and topcoding high asset values. To reduce the impact of item nonresponse and capture at least some information, responding parents who don't know or refuse to provide the exact value for an income or asset question are asked to select the appropriate range from a predefined list. Topcoding of parent and household income information uses the same system as youth income variables, as discussed in the Income, Assets & Program Participation: An Introduction section.

Parent information is collected from the responding parent in the round 1 Parent Questionnaire and in the Household Income Update in Rounds 2-5. Parent information is also collected from the youth.

Background of Parent (from Parent Questionnaire)

The Parent Questionnaire (round 1) first established the responding parent's origin or descent, birth date, and place of birth.  If the parent was born in the United States or a U.S. territory, a follow-up question asked for the state or territory of birth. Parents not born in the United States were questioned on their country of birth and the year they first came to live in the United States.

The survey also collected information about the responding parent's number of siblings, the religion in which he or she was raised, and the year of birth and highest grade level completed by his or her parents (the parents' number of siblings was also asked in rounds 13 and 14 of the Youth Questionnaire). Further questions focused on whether this parent lived with both biological parents while growing up, and if not, the parent he or she did live with, the reason he or she did not live with both parents, and the ages that he or she lived apart from one or both parents. The type of community in which the responding parent lived when he or she was 14 was also gathered.  The responding parent reported this same information for his or her current spouse or partner.  An additional question determined the number of times the responding parent's current spouse or partner had been legally married. If the NLSY97 respondent had had contact with a nonresident biological parent since the age of 10, the same set of questions was asked about that nonresident parent.

Status of Parent (from Parent Questionnaire)

The responding parent was questioned about his or her present employment status, marital status, and highest grade completed, as well as whether any language other than English was spoken at home. These data were also provided for the responding parent's spouse or partner. 

Attitudes of Parent (from Parent Questionnaire). In the self-administered section of the Parent Questionnaire (round 1), responding parents of youths born in 1982, 1983, and 1984 expressed their level of agreement with a series of statements about their attitude toward themselves. The same questions were asked of the youth respondent, as described in Attitudes. Data on the responding parent's attitude toward his or her partner or spouse and the youth's view of their relationship are also described in Attitudes.

Questions about religion were addressed to parents of youths born in 1982, 1983, and 1984. In the self-administered section of the questionnaire, these parents responded to the following statements about their religiosity:

  • I don't need religion to have good values
  • The Bible/Koran/Torah/religious teachings should be obeyed in every situation
  • I often ask God to help me make decisions
  • God has nothing to do with what happens to me personally
  • I pray more than once per day

Health of Parent (from Parent Questionnaire). The NLSY97 collected information on the responding parent's and his or her current spouse's/partner's general health.  Data were gathered on the presence of any long-term health problem that limited the type or amount of employment possible.  The parent then reported any serious long-standing medical condition (e.g., severe heart problem, cancer, potentially life-threatening disease) since the birth of his or her oldest child.  The parent's height and weight were also collected.  If the NLSY97 respondent was not currently living with his or her biological parents but had been in contact with them since age 10, the responding parent was asked about the height and weight of those parents.  In multiple respondent households, these questions were asked if the oldest respondent who was a child of the biological parents had had contact since age 10.

Income and Assets of Parent (from Parent Questionnaire). In round 1, information was gathered on the responding parent's earnings from a job--including military service--and from a farm, business, or professional practice during the 1996 calendar year. Similar data were collected for his or her current spouse or partner.  Additional questions gathered information about the combined income received from other sources by the responding parent and the spouse or partner during 1996.  Sources listed were interest or dividend income, including any amount that has been reinvested or credited; child support payments; and other income.  Finally, data were collected on amounts received from various government programs in 1996.

For a more comprehensive picture of the family's financial situation, the responding parent was also asked about assets and debts.  The parent first stated whether the family owned or rented their dwelling (e.g., ranch or farm, mobile home, house or apartment).  After determining the percentage of the dwelling and the land owned by the family, a follow-up question asked about the present value of these holdings. The survey then established whether there was a mortgage, land contract, or any other type of loan that used the property as collateral, such as a second mortgage or a home equity loan, and the amount still owed.  If the family neither rented nor owned the dwelling, the living situation was determined (e.g., housing part of job compensation, temporary living arrangements while house is under repair).

Additional asset information included the amount that would be received (less any outstanding debts) if any business partnership/professional practice or any real estate, such as a second home or land, was sold. The responding parent also stated whether he or she owned each of the assets listed in Figure 1; a follow-up question ascertained the total dollar value of each asset reported. Finally, to balance information on assets, the responding parent reported the amount still owed on any vehicles, any educational loans for a child, and other debt including credit cards or bank loans.

Figure 1. Assets Held by the Responding Parent

  • Bills and bonds including CDs, government savings bonds, or treasury bills
  • Checking, savings, or money market accounts
  • Educational IRA accounts or other prepaid tuition savings accounts
  • Other assets including money owed by others, life insurance policies, and precious metals
  • Pension or retirement savings
  • Shares in publicly-held corporations or mutual funds
  • Vehicles

Household Income Update (From the Household Income Update Form Administered to Respondent's Parent in Rounds 2-5). Surveys from rounds 2-5 included a household income update form, administered to one of the respondent's parents, which was designed to gather basic income information concerning the respondent's parent and his or her spouse/partner in the absence of a detailed parent questionnaire.  All respondents who lived with a parent at the interview date were eligible to have this questionnaire administered.  It collected the parent's total pre-tax income from wages, salaries, commissions, and tips during the past calendar year; the same data for the parent's spouse or partner; and the total pre-tax amount of any other income received (i.e., farm or business income, inheritances, child support, government programs).  In round 2, parents of 7,601 respondents answered at least one question from the Household Income Update; parents of 5,488 respondents answered at least one question in round 3; and 5,225 parents of respondents answered at least one question in round 4.  In round 5, parents of 4,090 respondents answered at least one question. The Household Income Update was not used after round 5.

Income of Parents (from Youth Questionnaire). Since the beginning round, the youth questionnaire instrument included basic questions about the income of the respondent's parents. These separately referred to the youth's biological mother, biological father, nonbiological mother, and nonbiological father as applicable.  The youth was asked for that parent's total income from a job, farm, business, or professional partnership. This information, along with the parent's responses to the Household Income Update, may allow researchers to compare a youth's perception of parental income with the amount the parent reports. The round 1 youth income section universe was determined by independence criteria. Starting in round 10, the parent income questions are asked only if the respondent is under 25.

Employment of Parent (from Parent Questionnaire). The round 1 NLSY97 collected a history of the responding parent's spells of employment since the parent's 18th birthday or the youth's date of birth, whichever was earlier. In this context, a spell was defined as three or more months of employment without a break of six or more months, regardless of employer. After establishing the start and stop dates for each spell, the responding parent reported the usual number of hours worked per week during each spell. The responding parent also provided work history information for each spouse who lived with the oldest NLSY97 youth during his or her marriage to the responding parent. The survey collected information on whether the spouse was working at the time of the marriage or for a period of three consecutive months or more during the marriage. If these conditions were met, the responding parent provided information on the spouse's spells of employment and the average number of hours per week worked during each spell.

Marital History of Parent (from Parent Questionnaire). Questions on the responding parent's marital history collected information on the length of each of the responding parent's marriages.  In addition, the survey gathered data on any changes in the marital status (e.g., legal separation) during each marriage.

Program Participation (from Parent Questionnaire). A series of questions recorded the number of years during the previous five years that a responding parent participated in various government programs targeting low income households (e.g., AFDC or ADC, SSI, WIC).

Grandparent Information (from Youth Questionnaire). In rounds 10 through 13, information was gathered on the state and country of the respondent's maternal and paternal grandparents.

Parent Health and Mortality (from Youth Questionnaire). In the Health Age 29 section in rounds 13-16, respondents who had reached the age of at least 29 were asked if their biological mother and father were still alive. If either parent had passed away, respondents provided the parent's cause of death and parent's age at death. Respondents were also asked a series of questions about their family's health history, in which they indicated whether either of their biological parents (or siblings) had ever been diagnosed with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a stroke. If respondents said "yes" to a family member having diabetes, additional information was gathered, including number of siblings who had diabetes, number of mother's and father's immediate relatives who had diabetes, and if a doctor had told the respondent he/she had a higher risk of diabetes due to genetics.

Parental Military Service, Business Ownership, and Incarceration (from Youth Questionnaire). In round 16, respondents answered general questions about whether their mother or father had served in the military, owned a business (with either at least one employee or located outside the household residence), or served a prison sentence before respondent turned 16.

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys:  Data provided by the respondent about his or her parents are available for all cohorts. For the NLSY79, information includes their birthplace, educational attainment, occupation, age, and life status. Information about the mothers of NLSY79 Children is quite detailed, as the mothers are main respondents for the NLSY79; basic demographic data on the fathers are available as well. Original Cohort respondents have provided information about the country of birth and life status of their parents, as well as the educational attainment and occupation of their parents during their teenage years. The Mature and Young Women also provided information about their parents' health and income and about transfers of time and money to and from their parents.  For more complete information, refer to the appropriate cohort's User's Guide.

Survey Instruments: These questions are found in sections P2 through P6 of the round 1 Parent Questionnaire. Questions about parent income are located in the income section (see questions that begin with YINC) of the Youth Questionnaire. In rounds 2-5, parental reports are collected by the Household Income Update, a brief questionnaire administered to one of the respondent's parents.

Related User's Guide Sections Attitudes
Household Composition
Characteristics of Non-Residential Relatives
Main Area of Interest Family Process Measures
Parent Background
Parent Current Status
Parent Family Background
Parent Retrospective
Supplemental Areas of Interest Attitudes
Household Characteristics
Non-Res. Characteristics