Marriage and Children

Marital Status & Transitions & Spouse's Characteristics


Young Women Marriage & Spouse Variables

Marital Status

Questions on marital status were asked of respondents in each survey year. In general, the resulting 'Marital Status' variable includes six coding categories: married--spouse present, married--spouse absent, widowed, divorced, separated, and never married. Revised marital status variables, created for several survey years, add a seventh category of spouse absent for unknown reason. Users are encouraged to use the revised variables. In some early survey years, another created marital status variable is available, 'Marital Status and Family Status,' which combines marital status with presence of children.

Marital Transitions

It is possible to construct a fairly comprehensive marital history using the Young Women data. The user should be aware, however, that very different questions are asked at different points in time. The following month and year variables are present in various years: (1) the date of first marriage; (2) the date of the most recent (latest or present) marriage; (3) the date of marriage to the current spouse; (4) the date of each change in marital status since a past interview; and (5) the date of becoming widowed, divorced, or separated. Other variables spanning various years include types of marital status changes and patterns of changes in marriage. Users are urged to examine the original questionnaires to determine wording, context, universe, and coding categories. In addition, while marital transition questions are asked periodically and cover previous dates, they were not asked annually in the early years of the survey. A series of marital status and transition variables is available for the following survey years: 1969, 1970, 1973, 1978, and 1982-2003.

Note that in earlier years, marital status information was updated for all respondents, including noninterviews. Noninterviewed respondents were assigned the marital status reported at their previous interview. In later years, updates to the marital status variables were made for interviewed respondents only (regardless of year). The User Notes below provide a more complete explanation. Finally, some marital information is missing, since respondents did not report on their marital history prior to 1969.

Created Variables

Created marital transition variables. The 2003 data release includes created variables (R90414.00-R90423.00) that trace a respondent's marital transitions reported during the years of the Young Women survey (1968-2003). For each respondent, a series of variables indicates the start date (variable name STDATxx) and end date (ENDATxx), if applicable, of each marriage reported. These variables were created using the form YYMM. For example, if a woman was first married in October of 1965, she would have a value of 6510 for the STDAT01 variable. Missing codes for these created variables indicate that the respondent had never married (‑999), that her first marriage never ended (‑998), that her first marriage ended and no second marriage was reported (‑997), and so forth. If a woman reported her marital status as married but did not provide a marriage date, she is assigned a code of 0, meaning that the date is unreported. More information on the creation of these variables, and the rules used to accommodate missing data, is provided in Appendix 41 of the Codebook Supplement.


User Notes

Users should carefully check coding category differences in marital status. In addition, there are many related variables such as marital status collected retrospectively for noninterview years and interviewer check items that use different categories than those described above. When marital transitions were updated from a midpoint of a previous year rather than from a previous interview, certain vital information may be missing. For instance, if a respondent was interviewed in 1980, was a noninterview in 1982, and then was interviewed again in 1983, her marital history was updated since a specified date in 1982 (not 1980). If she was married in 1980 but divorced and remarried before 1982, her marital status would be married for both 1980 and 1983, with no marital transitions recorded. Her husband, however, would be a different person with different characteristics than in 1980. It is imperative for researchers to examine the questionnaires to determine exactly what information is recorded, especially for those not interviewed in earlier years of the survey.

Questions for Widowed Respondents

In 1995-2003, a special series of questions was addressed to Young Women who had been widowed since their last interview. Respondents first answered questions about their husband's needs during the last year of his life, including whether the respondent provided special nursing care for the husband, the number of hours per day such care was required, and how this affected the respondent's employment opportunities. Respondents also provided information about how medical costs were paid during this time.

The second part of this series focused on the respondent's financial situation after her husband's death. These questions determined the types and amounts of benefits or other assistance the widow had received in connection with her husband's death. Sources of income recorded include insurance, Social Security, pensions, and family members.

Users should note that if the respondent appeared to be too uncomfortable to answer these questions at any point in the series, interviewers could skip past the remaining questions at their discretion. In these cases, a code of -7 in the data indicates that the respondent was unable to answer.

Spouse/Partner Characteristics

Information on the respondent's spouse is available in all years; data are collected about the partners of respondents beginning with the 1983 survey. Spouse/partner data include health, income, education, weeks worked, and attitudes. The "Household Roster" is also a possible source of partner information. Although the list of possible relationships to the respondent on the "Household Roster" section of the questionnaire ("Household Record" variables) does not include "partner" in the early years, the revised relationship codes of later years do include this category.

In addition to this basic background information, beginning in 1993 the survey collected detailed information on the work experiences of the respondent's husband. The same questions were asked regarding the respondent's partner since 1995. In questionnaire sections such as "Husband's Work History" and "Husband's Employer Supplement," the respondent reports on the husband's/partner's current labor force status; occupation, industry, and class of worker at current or most recent job; start and stop dates of employment; rate of pay; usual hours worked; and union membership. Similar information is then recorded for other jobs held since the last interview. Additionally, the respondent describes the husband's or partner's job search activity in the past month and weeks of unemployment since the last interview/in the last year. Finally, the interview addresses retirement issues by asking the respondent whether her husband/partner was covered by Social Security (1993 only); what his or her plans and expectations are for retirement; and what types of pension coverage are available from current and past employers.

Survey Instruments & Documentation: Current marital status of the respondent is generally transcribed from the updated Household Record Cards to page one of the questionnaire or to the Information Sheet. In some survey years, however, current marital status is collected in other sections of the questionnaire, such as "Health" or "Work Attitudes." Marital transition information for the respondent is collected in the "Marital History," "Family Members," "Family Background," or "Marital Status" questionnaire sections. The derivations of the revised versions of marital status come from consistency checks and hand-edits and result in revised household information. The derivation for the 'Pattern of Marital Status 68-73' variables, a series of created variables, is listed in Appendix 20 of the Codebook Supplement).