Marital status. Questions on marital status have been asked of respondents in each survey year, except for the 1968 mail survey. In general, the resulting 'Marital Status' variable includes six coding categories: married--spouse present, married--spouse absent, widowed, divorced, separated, and never married. In some years, the raw variable contains only five categories (combining married--spouse present and married--spouse absent). Researchers are encouraged to use the revised marital status variables available for these years; these revised variables provide a six-category distribution comparable to other years.
A single question in 1990 assessed the sample person's attitude about his marriage. This interview asked the respondent whether he thought of himself and his wife as "two separate people" or "a couple."
Marital transitions. Limited marital transition information was collected in the later Older Men surveys. In 1976, the respondent reported the date of his first marriage and, if applicable, the date he was widowed or divorced. In 1981, the survey first asked if the respondent had been married more than once. He then provided the dates of his first and most recent marriage, as well as the date he was most recently divorced or widowed. The 1990 interview of sample persons was the same as the 1981 survey, except that the date of first marriage question was dropped. All of the marital history variables can be located in the data set by searching for the phrase "Marital Status & Background."
In 1990, if the widow of a deceased sample person was interviewed, she was asked to report the marital status of the respondent at the time of his death (e.g., whether she and the sample person were married, divorced, separated, etc.), as well as the year she and the sample person were first married.
Characteristics of the respondent's spouse. Information on the respondent's spouse was collected in the household roster during all interviews except the 1968 mail survey; these data are described in detail in the Household Composition section. In several of the early surveys, created variables are available that summarize the information on respondents' wives collected in the household record so that researchers do not need to sort through the roster data. In addition, the 1981 survey included a special set of questions about the work experience of the respondent's wife. Data collected include whether the wife had ever worked; the start and stop years, industry, and occupation of her longest job; whether she had worked in the previous 12 months; her plans for retirement; and whether she expected to receive retirement income from Social Security or an employer pension.
A large amount of information is available for widows of Older Men respondents interviewed in 1990. This questionnaire collected information about the widow's work experience, current marital status, household composition, income, assets, and residence in a long-term care facility.
No specific questions on partners were asked of the Older Men; the household roster is a possible source of limited partner information. Although the list of possible relationships to the respondent on the "Household Roster" section of the questionnaire did not include "partner" in the early years, the relationship codes were revised in later years to include this category.
Children. If the respondent's children resided in his household, data were collected in the household roster section of all questionnaires except 1968 regarding their age, education, and employment. This information is described in detail in the "Household Composition" section of this guide. In 1966-75, survey staff used the information from the household record to create variables providing the total number of the respondent's children in the household; in some years, additional created variables break this total down into groups based on age, education, and employment status. A second series of questions in the 1971 interview asked about the respondent's educational expectations for the youngest son and daughter living in his household and currently enrolled in school.
Every survey except 1968 asked the respondent how many dependents he had, excluding his wife. In personal interviews, the respondent stated his relationship to dependents outside his household. An additional series of questions in the 1981 survey asked the respondent if anyone was likely to become dependent on him in the future and, if so, their relationship to him.
More limited information was gathered about children who did not live with the respondent. The initial survey asked for the total number of such children, whether each was a son or daughter, and the highest grade completed by each child. A detailed data collection in 1976 recorded information about all children outside the household in a roster format. The respondent provided each child's age and relationship to the respondent. If the child was age 16 or older, the survey collected his or her highest grade completed, labor force status in the past year, and occupation. The respondent also reported the marital status of each daughter, as well as her husband's occupation.
The 1981 and 1990 interviews collected information about the frequency of contact between the respondent and children living outside his household. In 1981, the survey first recorded the total number of children living elsewhere; the 1990 survey gathered the total number of living children, regardless of residence. Both of these interviews asked a series of questions about how often the respondent visited, called, or corresponded with his children. In 1990, the respondent also stated how long it would take the closest child to get to the respondent's residence.
Related Variables: Data were regularly gathered regarding the health of the respondent's wife; these questions are discussed in the Health section. The Pensions, Social Security & Retirement section contains additional information about the respondent's contact with his children, as well as a description of questions asking to whom he would turn for help with a financial or emotional problem.