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Changes to the Household Relationship Data in the Current Population Survey

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Working Paper Number SEHSD-WP2019-13

This presentation will describe upcoming changes to the household relationship data in the Current Population Survey (CPS). Since 2007, we have added a direct cohabitation question, changed the way we asked respondents to identify parents in the household, changed how we edit same-sex couples, and revised the answer categories on the relationship to householder question. The presentation will describe the changes, explain their benefits, and provide some comparisons to illustrate the changes.

In Census 2010, we discovered that misreporting by opposite-sex married couples was having a large effect on the estimates of same-sex married couples. The changes to the relationship to householder question, and to the editing process for the data, work to improve these estimates. In this presentation, we plan to provide some comparisons of key characteristics by couple type. The CPS asks how each household member is related to the householder. The revised question expands the 'spouse' and 'unmarried partner' categories, and lists 'opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse,' 'same-sex husband/wife/spouse,' 'opposite-sex unmarried partner,' and 'same-sex unmarried partner.'

In addition, we changed how we ask the parent identification questions. From roughly the mid-1980s through 2006, CPS contained one question asking for the identification of a parent. If that parent was married, the person was considered to have two parents present. In 2007, we began asking for the identification of a mother and father. The new questions ask for the identification of a parent, and a second parent, regardless of sex. This allows respondents to easily report two mothers or two fathers.

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