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This variable indicates whether the respondent (or anyone in the respondent's family in 1971, 1979, and 1980) wore eye glasses at the time of the interview. The survey question does not ask about contact lenses. Analysts may be interested in the variable GLASSLENS, which asks sample adult and sample children if they wear contact lenses or glasses.


The frequency of which contacts are worn is not specified or mentioned in the interview nor included in the Field Representative's Manuals, except for 1984. The 1984 Manual provides the instructions, "If the respondent mentions that glasses are only used occasionally, mark "Yes."


Changes to the definition of "glasses" and the universe of this variable limit its comparability over time. In 2011-2017, this variable is comparable and was collected for sample adults who completed the Adult Functioning and Disability supplement (administered to a subset of sample adults). Beginning in 2018, this item was included on the sample adult questionnaire. As always, users should employ the prescribed IPUMS NHIS weights.

In 1980, 1981 "eyeglasses" referred to glasses which corrected or improved vision: sunglasses or safety glasses were not counted. In 1980, interviewers were specifically instructed to not to assume if the respondent was wearing glasses, that these were corrective lenses. In 1984, the criteria did not specify that that glasses be corrective, and glasses that just magnify were acceptable, along with prescription eyeglasses as well as eyeglasses purchased at drug stores and variety stores, that did not require a prescription.

All persons were asked this question 1971, 1979, and 1980; it was restricted to only sample children age 3 to 17 in 1981, and sample adults older than 55 years who weren't blind in both eyes in 1984. In 1971, 1979, and 1980, a respondent representing the family (a proxy) could answer the question for GLASSES for other adult family members. Adult respondents also reported for children for all child health questions, though this is not considered proxy reporting. In 1984, except in rare cases where disability precluded self-reporting, sample persons sample adults answered the question themselves. Because self-reporting is likely to be more accurate than proxy reporting, researchers should exercise caution when comparing results between the 1971, 1979, and 1980 surveys and the 1984 and 1981 surveys.


  • 1971: All persons.
  • 1979-1980: All persons.
  • 1981: Sample persons age 3 to 17.
  • 1984: Sample persons age 55+ who are not blind in both eyes.
  • 2012-2017: Sample adults 18+ who were asked the family disability questions (FDB) and were randomly selected to receive the Functioning and Disability (AFD) section.
  • 2018: Sample adults aged 18 and older.


  • 1971, 1979-1981, 1984, 2012-2018