Marital & Marriage-Like Relationships

Marital & Marriage-Like Relationships

Created Variables

CV_MARSTAT_COLLAPSED. This variable identifies the current marital status of age-eligible respondents, with respondents classified in five basic marital categories--never married, married, separated, divorced, and widowed. 

CV_MARSTAT. This variable identifies current marital status using more detailed categories to provide cohabitation information as well (e.g., never married, cohabiting; married, spouse absent; separated, cohabiting).

CVC_MARRIAGES_TTL. This variable provides total number of marriages.

CVC_COHAB_TTL. This variable provides total number of cohabitation experiences.

CVC_FIRST_COHAB_DATE~M and CVC_FIRST_COHAB_DATE~Y. These variables provide the month and year that first cohabitation began. Refers only to partners, including partners who lived together and later married. These are cross-round (XRND) variables, which means they were created for all respondents regardless of interview status in current round.

CVC_FIRST_COHAB_MONTH. This XRND variable provides the date that first cohabitation began, using a continuous month scheme.

CVC_FIRST_MARRY_DATE~M and CVC_FIRST_MARRY_DATE~Y. These XRND variables provide the date (month and year) the respondent's first marriage began, using a continuous month scheme.

CVC_FIRST_MARRY_END_DATE~M and CVC_FIRST_MARRY_END_DATE~Y. These XRND variables provide the date (month and year) the first marriage ended.

CVC_FIRST_MARRY_END_MONTH. This XRND variable provides the date the first marriage ended as a continuous month scheme variable.

CVC_FIRST_MARRY_END. This XRND variable provides the reason the first marriage ended (respondent was divorced, widowed, etc.). In addition, the Event History data set (see separate box) contains a number of created variables tracing the respondent's marriage and cohabitation history over time. Unlike the created variables described above, these event history variables (MAR_STATUS, MAR_COHABITATION, and MAR_PARTNER_LINK) include both spouses and partners in the same variable. 


Event History Variables

Three NLSY97 marital and cohabitation arrays record changes in the respondent's marital and cohabitation status. These arrays are presented using a continuous month timeline, which labels January 1980 as month 1, February 1980 as month 2, and so on. Thus, a respondent born in month 4 (April 1980) might have a cohabitation that began in month 193 (January 1997) and ended in month 198 (June 1997). All marital/cohabitation arrays provide information beginning in the month that the respondent turned 14 and ending in the month that he or she was last interviewed. Additionally, the beginning dates of the youth's first marriage and first cohabitation are provided in two created continuous month variables:  CV_FIRST_MARRY_MONTH and CV_FIRST_COHAB_MONTH. A crosswalk between the continuous month numbers and the actual dates is provided in Appendix 7 of the Codebook Supplement.

MAR_STATUS. The main array presents the status (e.g., never married/not cohabiting, cohabiting, married, divorced) of a respondent during a particular month. Marital status takes precedence over cohabiting; for example, if a respondent is divorced and living with another partner, the status listed in this array will be "divorced." Respondents who are married but not living with their spouses are coded as married. There is no separate code for annulments; if a respondent reports this event, the marriage dates are maintained and the marital status code after the annulment is "divorced."

MAR_COHABITATION. This second array details the partner with whom the respondent is living with in a particular month. For example, the variable for each month identifies whether the respondent lives with partner 1, partner 2, spouse 1, spouse 2, etc. In these variables, 1 and 2 refer to the respondent's partners/spouses in chronological order. The numbers do not necessarily refer to the same person as the spouse/partner questions asked directly of the respondent during the survey. Users can distinguish between partners and spouses because partner IDs begin with "1" (e.g., 101, 102) and spouse IDs begin with "2" (e.g., 201, 202).

MAR_PARTNER_LINK. The third array links the cohabiting partner or spouse to the partner using the ID found on the partners roster (PARTNERS_UID.XX). This array allows the researcher to identify characteristics of the respondent's partner and to link them with spells of marriage or cohabitation. For example, a researcher might look at the MAR_COHABITATION variable for the 10th month of 1998 and determine that a respondent was living with his second partner in that month because the variable's value is 102. If the researcher checks the value of MAR_PARTNER_LINK for the same month and year, the respondent might have a value of 9801, indicating that the partner in the event history arrays that month is the first new partner reported in the round 2 survey. The researcher can then examine the round 2 PARTNERS_ID.xx variables to match the ID of the partner found in the event history array to the unique ID in the roster variable that then links to that person's characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, age, religion, and so on. For details on how to link the respondent's first cohabiting partner to the partner's characteristics, see the Matching Cohabiting Partners to Their Characteristics in the NLSY97 tutorial.

Deny Variables. Deny variables in the marital status section flag respondents who deny a relationship reported in a previous survey round. These variables were no longer provided beginning in round 9 due to a change in the questionnaire.   


Important Information About Using Marriage & Cohabitation Data

1. Until round 7, the respondent's household is based on what the respondent considers to be his or her permanent household, not where he or she is living at the time of the survey, so respondents who are in the military (or away at college or incarcerated) may report their spouse or children as being in the household, even though the answers in the fertility and marriage sections have the respondent separated from them. Beginning in round 7, household is the place where the respondent currently resides.

2. In some cases, problems arose in the marriage and fertility sections due to inaccuracies in relationship codes in the household roster. If a household member was identified on the roster as the respondent's child or spouse, the marriage and fertility sections asked questions about that person. If the relationship code in the roster was incorrect and the person was not a spouse or child, the youth respondent would correct the relationship at that point in the interview. NLS staff subsequently corrected a number of problems in the roster relationship codes. Thus, it may appear that respondents were asked marriage and fertility questions even though there was no one in the household to ask these questions about. Users may not be able to trace a child or spouse back to the roster due to these corrections. Researchers should contact NLS User Services for more details.

3. For details on how to link the respondent's first cohabiting partner to the partner's characteristics, see the Matching Cohabiting Partners to Their Characteristics in the NLSY97 tutorial.

The surveys ask respondents age 16 or older at the end of the calendar year before the survey about their marital status at the time of the survey. In addition, information is gathered about all changes in the respondent's marital and cohabitation status that occurred between the interviews. For rounds 1-8, a marriage-like relationship was defined as a sexual relationship in which partners of the opposite sex live together; in rounds 9 and up the phrase "of the opposite sex" was removed from the definition. In rounds 2 and above, the partners must have lived together for at least one month.

Each survey asks the respondent to report the name (or initials, if the respondent is reluctant to provide a full name) of any spouse or partner meeting the above definition. The surveys then collect specific information on each partner. For all spouses and partners, the respondent reports when he or she started and stopped living with that individual. If a newly-reported spouse or partner is not residing in the respondent's household, the youth is asked for additional information. This includes the partner's age, race, and highest grade of schooling at the time the relationship began; whether the partner was enrolled in school, working, or receiving government assistance when they began living together; and the partner's religious preference and the frequency with which he or she attended religious services (rounds 1 and 2).

After the list of spouses and partners is compiled, the questionnaires go back through the list and determine the dates at which changes in marital status occurred during each relationship. Respondents state whether they were married, divorced, reunited, separated, or had their marriage annulled at that date. Additional questions ensure that the time periods are captured if respondents break up and then live again with the same partner.

Round 1 also included a series that provided a detailed picture of a respondent's life with his or her current spouse/partner. Respondents were asked to rate how often they and their partner engaged in behavior such as screaming or yelling, compromising to resolve a disagreement, or expressing affection for each other. Respondents answered once for themselves and once for each partner so that answers are provided for both sides of the relationship, although only from the respondent's point of view.

The round 13 survey asked respondents to estimate the percent chance they would be married in one year and in five years.

Same-Sex Partners

From round 1 through round 8, the phrase "of the opposite sex" was used whenever respondents were asked about partner or spousal relationships, although it would have been possible for respondents to list a same-sex lover/partner on the household roster.

In round 6, respondents began answering questions about the gender of their dating and sexual partners.

Beginning in round 9, the words "opposite sex" were dropped from the questions on partners and spouses, and gender of partners/spouses started being collected (if this information had not already been recorded in the household section).

Illustrated Example of Following the Data When There is a Marital Status Change

The marriage section collects data using a series of partner loops, loops of periods living together, and changes in marital status loops. For example, a hypothetical respondent named Barbara has lived with two spouses/partners since the date of last interview. Jose is Barbara's current spouse, and he is listed on line 1 of the PARTNERS roster and appears in partner loop 1 for marriage section questions such as YMAR-3100.01, which collects the date that the respondent first started living with this spouse/partner. In questions YMAR-5400.01.01 and YMAR-5700.01.01, which are inside the "periods living together" loop with this partner, Barbara reports the date she married Jose.

Prior to living with and marrying Jose, Barbara lived with a previous partner, Chuck, who is listed on line 2 of the PARTNERS roster and appears in loop 2 for the marriage section questions. For former spouses and partners (such as Chuck), detailed information about race, ethnicity, educational achievement, and employment status is collected in the marriage section. For current spouses or partners (Jose, in this case), that information is collected in the household roster section instead of the marriage section. Therefore, users will notice that questions such as YMAR-3700.02 (highest educational degree), YMAR-3900.02 (employment status), and YMAR-4100.02 (religion) contain information for Chuck, but there no corresponding information for Jose in YMAR-3700.01, YMAR-3900.01, and YMAR-4100.01, as Jose's information can be found on the household roster.

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys: Information on marital status, history, and transitions has been collected for each cohort (for the NLSY79 Children cohort, information was collected only for children age 15 and older). For more information, refer to the appropriate cohort's User's Guide.

Survey Instruments: These questions are found in the marriage section (question names begin with YMAR) of the Youth Questionnaire.

Related User's Guide Sections Household Composition
Fertility, Pregnancy & Children
Main Area of Interest Demographic Indicators
Marriage & Cohabitation
Supplemental Areas of Interest Children
Household Characteristics