IPUMS USA Data Children Out of Household

Hi there,

I am trying to compute the distribution of birth intervals for mothers in the US. For the purpose of my research, it is important that I include all children ever born from a mother. Right now, I’m concerned that the IPUMS USA household data might be excluding children who no longer live in the household.

For example, let’s say that a mother has 3 children: currently ages 12, 17, and 25. Suppose the 25-year-old leaves the household. Would he/she be omitted from the data going forward? Would the data only show the 12 and 17-year-olds? Or all 3 children?

I noticed that previous surveys (until 1990) included the variable CHBORN (children ever born). Is there any way to tell if a household is “complete” (i.e., includes all the children ever born from a mother) for the more recent 2021 ACS data?


It is not possible to estimate the total number of children born to a woman in the IPUMS USA data in samples where the CHBORN variable is not available. ACS households include everyone who is currently living or staying at a sample address, while people who have been or will be away for more than 2 months are considered not to be current residents. Parent-child relationships are only identified within households. Once a child leaves the household for whatever reason (moves out, dies, is removed from custody, etc.), they are no longer linkable to parents in the household. Family interrelationships between parents and children are inferred based on linking rules described in MOMRULE and POPRULE and moreover do not differentiate between social (e.g. adoptive, step-parent) and biological relationships.

1 Like

Thanks for the clarification!

Dear Isabel, are you aware of studies that provide any comparison between the number of own children in the household to the number of children ever-born by mother’s age?

The role of IPUMS User Support Team is to answer questions about our data and documentation; we leave interpretation of results and situating them within the existing literature up to individual researchers as this can vary greatly by discipline. You can review the IPUMS Bibliography for research that uses IPUMS data to look at fertility, or employ search tools such as Google Scholar or JSTOR to find other literature relevant to your interests.