The University Record, January 10, 2000

ISR to begin multi-year research on family growth

From the Institute for Social Research

Staff from the Survey Research Center, Population Studies Center and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research will collaborate on a major data collection project, gathering information about the process of family formation and growth from households across the country.

The National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) is the principal source for national estimates of factors affecting pregnancy and birth rates. It includes questions about sexual activity, cohabitation, marriage and divorce, frequency of intercourse, contraceptive use for both birth control and disease prevention, miscarriage and stillbirth, infertility, wanted and unwanted births, and the use of medical services for family planning and infertility.

Funded by the National Center for Health Statistics, this multipurpose survey up to now has been based on personal interviews with a national sample of women ages 15–44 years in the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States.

The project will be directed by Bob Groves (principal investigator) as project director, with Bill Axinn as deputy project director and Krishna Winfrey as field director. Other key personnel include: Jim Lepkowski, chief mathematical statistician; Mick Couper, director of questionnaire development and programming; and Erik Austin, director of data processing. The National Center for Health Statistics may choose to award the next two cycles of the project to the same researchers. The expected value of the full grant, pending the award of future cycles, is approximately $48.8 million.

For the current cycle, scheduled to go into the field early next year, approximately 11,800 females ages 15–44 years will be surveyed using computer-assisted personal interviewing technology. Motivated by a need for more detailed information on the sexual behavior and reproductive health of males, this cycle also will include, for the first time, 7,200 male respondents ages 15–49 years. The survey will use a fresh sample, rather than being linked to the National Health Interview Survey.

Particularly sensitive items will be administered using audio computer-assisted self-administration, in which respondents use laptop computers and earphones to privately provide information sought in the study.

The organization of the project team also is innovative—a collaboration among substantive experts, survey methodologists and survey operations experts—that places all three as co-equal leaders of the activity. It also represents participation from several different units within the Institute for Social Research, a collaboration that was highly valued in the competition for the award.