We assess the quality of retrospective data on cohabitation by comparing data collected in four major U.S. family surveys: the National Survey of Families and Households and three rounds of the National Survey of Family Growth. We use event-history analysis to analyze rates of entry into cohabitation in age-period-cohort segments captured by multiple surveys. We find consistent discrepancies among the four surveys. The pattern of differences suggests that cohabitation histories underestimate cohabitation rates in distant periods relative to rates estimated closer to the date of survey. We conclude with cautions regarding the use of retrospective data on cohabitation.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Brewer, W.F. 1994. “Autobiographical Memory and Survey Research.” Pp. 11–20 in Autobiographical Memory and the Validity of Retrospective Reports, edited by N. Schwarz and S. Sudman. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
- Goldscheider, F.K. and C. Goldscheider. 1994. “Leaving and Returning Home in 20th Century America.” Population Bulletin 48(4):1–35.Google Scholar
- Knab, J. Tansey and S. McLanahan. 2006. “Measuring Cohabitation: Does How, When, and Who You Ask Matter?” Pp. 19–33 in Handbook of Measurement Issues in Family Research, edited by S.L. Hofferth and L.M. Casper. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Preston, S.H., P. Heuveline, and M. Guillot. 2001. Demography: Measuring and Modeling Population Processes. Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
- Thompson, C.P., J.J. Skowronski, S.F. Larsen, and A. Betz. 1996. “Reconstructing Event Dates: The Effect of Retention Interval, Event Characteristics, and Person Characteristics.” Pp. 125–62 in Autobiographical Memory: Remembering What and Remembering When, edited by C.P. Thompson, J.J. Skowronski, S.F. Larsen, and A. Betz. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar