Food Security Refuse/Don't Know

Hi. I am using the food security supplement questions (2003-2020) for an analysis and I was wondering how IPUMS codes individuals who respond refuse/don’t know to the 18 questions that make up fsstatus. When I try to replicate fsstatus using the 18 questions, I have a few individuals (about 200) who do not match up correctly (I have them as secure and fsstatus has them as insecure). I think it is because they respond refuse/don’t know, but I could not find any documentation about how those individuals are categorized. Thank you.

IPUMS CPS has no involvement in the assignment of food security status to CPS respondents; this work is done by the Census Bureau. Once the Census Bureau has released the data, the IPUMS CPS team harmonizes, documents, and releases the data as variables in the extract system. The variable FSSTATUS describes the process that the Census Bureau uses to determine food security status.

Food security is based on the number of affirmative answers to the food security questions and the presence of children in the household. Households are classified as food secure (high or marginal) if they report less than three food insecure conditions. Households with incomes greater than 185% of the poverty line who report no instances of food insecurity to two preliminary screening questions are also categorized as food secure (see FSSCREEN).

Households without children are classified as low food security if they report 3-5 food insecurity conditions and are very low food insecure if they report 6 or more food insecure conditions. Households with children are classified as low food insecure if they report 3-7 food insecure conditions, and very low food insecure if they report 8 or more food insecure conditions.

The CPS codebook provides user notes with more detail on how this scale is evaluated (starting on page 268). You might also try comparing your results to the adult and child raw scores (FSRAWSCRA and FSRAWSCRC) to see that they match. The raw score variables have a No response option as well, which may help you identify how the Census Bureau coded respondents who refused to answer food security status questions. If you still find a discrepancy after reviewing your findings based on this information, you can email us at with a file that includes these cases (and all variables needed to calculate food security status) and we can take a closer look.