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Report on Cognitive Testing of Cohabitation Questions

Jennifer Hunter



This report documents the results of cognitive testing on alternative versions of questions about cohabitation. This research served as pretesting for a joint project that the Statistical Research Division and the Population Division will be conducting in the 2004 Questionnaire Design Experiment Research Survey (QDERS). In this RDD experiment, alternative wording to identify all couples in a household who are cohabiting will be tested. This will provide more detailed data than are currently available for Person 1 and his/her cohabiting partner, and may be expanded into Census Bureau surveys.

The cognitive testing examined heterosexual, gay and lesbian respondents’ reactions to such terms as “unmarried partner,” “domestic partner,” “life partner,” “romantic partner,” “boyfriend/girlfriend,” “significant other,” “fiancé,” “ and “spouse.” Reactions were also obtained for questions that determine cohabitation status in the marital status question and in separate cohabitation questions. Most respondents, particularly gays, lesbians, and older respondents, preferred to indicate they were living with a partner in the marital status question, but all respondents were able to choose the appropriate response category in the standard marital status question. In the cohabitation questions, references to the concept of living together without being married were seen negatively by gay and lesbian respondents, who do not have the option of getting married. The question asking about “boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner” seemed more acceptable to all respondents.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: December 21, 2005
Last revised: December 21, 2005

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010