Counting Families: Household Matrices with Multiple Family Members

Manning, Wendy (PI)
Balistreri, Kelly (co-PI)
Counting Families:  Household Matrices with Multiple Family Members, NICHD R03

The proposed goal of the research is to collect and distribute new data that will provide researchers and policy makers with more comprehensive estimates on the complex structure of American families. This project provides Public Infrastructure support and builds on the aims of the parent grant which supports the Center for Family and Demographic Research (HD050959). As American family life has become more complex (i.e., multiple family transitions and relationships that cross household boundaries), research needs to adjust measurement of the family to acknowledge this complexity. It is widely acknowledged that data collections have not kept pace with the recent changes in the American family. High quality measurement of family composition and relationships is critical for accurate assessments of family change and development of public policies and programs to meet children and families’ needs. While relationship matrix data is a newly accepted tool to collect data from a one person about the composition of the household and household relationships to one another (Brandon 2007), this represents just one person’s view of the relationships in the household. A further limitation is that this method does not recognize relationships that extend beyond traditional household boundaries which have become more common and need to be incorporated into understanding family life (e.g., children who reside part-time or short periods of time) (Hill and Callister 2007). We build on this method to collect and disseminate household matrix relationships from a respondent as well as spouse/partner (if available) and teenage children (13+) living in the household. By using a web-based format this innovative approach is cost efficient and accessible to the research community in a short time window (9 months). The data will be released via Data Sharing for Demographic Research at ICPSR. This project will contribute to job creation, support economic development, and accelerate the pace of research on the measurement of families and households.


Balistreri, Kelly S., Wendy D. Manning, and Susan L. Brown. (2009). “New Family Measures: An examination of Direct Measures of Cohabitation and Parent Pointers.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, April, Detroit.