Measuring cohabitation in national surveys


Manning, Wendy D.; Joyner, Kara; Hemez, Paul; & Cupka, Cassandra (2017). Measuring cohabitation in national surveys. Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America. Chicago, IL.


Cohabitation is one of the fastest growing family forms in the United States, but has not been consistently measured across surveys. Recent rounds of the Current Population Survey (CPS), National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY-97) and National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) are used to assess the quality of data on cohabitation. Results demonstrated that the surveys provide similar estimates of current cohabitation status, except the CPS resulted in lower estimates. In terms of cohabitation experience (i.e., having ever cohabited), Add Health produced higher estimates, whereas both the NSFG and NLSY-97 produced lower estimates. We documented a strong education gradient across all surveys, with lower levels of current cohabitation and cohabitating experience with increases in educational attainment. Race/ethnic differentials in cohabitation were inconsistent across surveys. We discussed aspects of sampling and measurement that potentially explain differences in estimates.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America


Manning, Wendy D.
Joyner, Kara
Hemez, Paul
Cupka, Cassandra

Year Published


City of Publication

Chicago, IL

Reference ID