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Codes and Frequencies

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For sample adults (and, prior to 2019, for all persons), MARSTCUR describes the person's self-reported marital status. Beginning in 1997, the NCHS expanded the available responses to include “living with a partner,” defined as “unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex couples living together as if they were married.” Prior to this change, instructions to the Field Representative required that same-sex couples who reported being married be reclassified as unmarried and interviewed as different family units.

Information on spousal location was collected from all persons who reported themselves as married, either through household composition and family relationship components (prior to 2019) or directly from respondents (SPLIVHERE and SPNOTHERSEP).

Some respondents were asked a series of follow-up questions designed to gather information about their legal marital status. From 1997-2018, all persons who reported that they were cohabitating with a partner were asked if they had ever been married COHABEVMAR and what their legal status was COHABMARST. After the 2019 survey redesign, all persons who did not report themselves as married were asked similar questions about having been married (MARRIEDEV) and legal status (not available in public-use data). In all cases, a respondent’s legal marital status was recoded by NCHS and is reported in the IPUMS variable MARSTLEG.

This variable replaces MARSTCOHAB, which was deprecated in 2024.


Universe and survey redesign changes introduced in 2019 affect the comparability between 2019-forward and 2018 and earlier samples. Beginning in 2019, marital status information was only collected for sample adults aged 18 and older and marital status for younger persons is unknown; beginning in 2019, sample children aged 18 and younger were all coded as "not in universe." Prior to 2019, marital status information was collected for all persons age 15 and older and children under 15 were coded as "not in universe.”

Questionnaire design changes introduced in 2019 limit comparability with earlier years. The NHIS questionnaire was substantially redesigned in 2019 to introduce a different data collection structure and new content. For more information on changes in terminology, universes, and data collection methods beginning in 2019, please see the user note.


  • 1997-2018: All persons.
  • 2019-2022: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 1997-2022