Box 5-2

Living Situation Survey

The Living Situation Survey (LSS) was a special survey conducted in May–October 1993 by Research Triangle Institute, sponsored and designed by the Census Bureau. The basic objective of the survey was “to test experimental roster probes designed to improve coverage of tenuously attached people. The LSS also collected a great deal of detailed data about movements in and out of sample households” to provide basic information on fundamental residence issues, such as the assumption that each person in the United States has a single, uniquely defined usual residence (Martin, 2004:1).

LSS data were collected from a national multistage probability sample of housing units, designed so that it oversampled minority and renter areas. Interviewers performed personal visits, contacting a household respondent for each sampled housing unit and asking that respondent to list all the persons associated with that unit within the previous 2–3 months. The interviewer then guided the respondent through a series of 13 roster questions; though some emulated the decennial census usual residence approach, the LSS questionnaires did not provide residence rule cues such as lists of specific include/exclude suggestions. After the battery of rostering questions, the respondent was then asked questions about each individual they had identified in rostering. Upon completion of the interview with the designated household respondent, the multistage nature of the sampling design came into play, as selected individuals identified in the rosters were asked to answer questions about themselves. The survey had a 79 percent response rate and was completed in 999 housing units in 1993; those housing unit interviews yielded 3,537 identified persons, 2,825 of which had “more than a casual connection” to the sampled housing units (Sweet and Alberti, 1994:319).

The LSS asked the household respondent to identify whether each person they identified was a usual resident at that address, based on the census definition (where they live and sleep most of the time). The detailed queries also permitted a determination as to whether each person was a usual resident based on a time-based criterion, based on whether they had moved in or out of the residence during the 2- to 3-month reference period used in the survey. Sweet and Alberti (1994:320) report that the two standards agreed most of the time but not exclusively; 94.89 percent of the respondent-labeled and time-based assessments of usual residence agreed with each other; 3.71 percent were dubbed usual residents but did not live in the unit for more than half of the reference window, and 1.41 percent had lived at the unit more than half the time but were not correctly labeled by the respondent. Inconsistency was most prevalent for 18–29-year-olds (Sweet and Alberti, 1994:320).

An important finding of the LSS concerned the reporting of black and Hispanic males aged 18–29. Nearly a quarter of these minority males found by the survey were misclassified in terms of their status as usual residents: 17.5 percent were dubbed usual residents by the survey respondent but had not actually spent most of the past 2–3 months at the residence, and 5.6 percent had spent most of the past several months at the household but were left off the list of usual residents by the respondent (Sweet and Alberti, 1994:321). Related issues are discussed in more detail in Section 4–A.5.

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