The University of Chicago

The University of Chicago Population Research Center

Skip to: main navigation | utility navigation | main content

National Health and Social Life Survey

Principal Investigator(s): Edward O. Laumann,University of Chicago; John H. Gagnon, State University of New York-Stony Brook;Robert T. Michael, University of Chicago; Stuart Michaels, University of Chicago

Institution: The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago (NORC)

Survey Date: 1992


The purpose of this study was to collect extensive information on the sexual experiences and other social, demographic, attitudinal, and health-related characteristics of adults in the United States. The survey collected information on sexual practices with spouses/cohabitants and other sexual partners and collected background information about the partners. Major areas of investigation include sexual experiences such as number of sexual partners in given time periods, frequency of particular practices, and timing of various sexual events. The data cover childhood and adolescence, as well as adulthood. Other topics in the survey relate to sexual victimization, marriage and cohabitation, and fertility. Respondents were also queried about their physical health, including history of sexually transmitted diseases. Respondents' attitudes toward premarital sex, the appeal of particular practices such as oral sex, and levels of satisfaction with particular sexual relationships were also studied. Demographic items include race, education, political and religious affiliation, income, and occupation. Data was collected via personal interviews and self-administered questionnaires with approximately 3,400 adults, aged 18 to 59 years, drawn from households in two middle-sized metropolitan areas using a three stage area probability sample design. The sample included an oversample of the number of Blacks and Hispanics in the study.  The interview includes items on specific sexual activities, attitudes and beliefs about sex, and sequences of partnership formation and dissolution, as well as background information, such as age, socioeconomic status, and ethnic and religious group. The basic analytic strategy is to identify the full range of sexual behaviors and to examine patterns that may be associated with specific types of partnerships and/or specific attitudes. The network structure of partnership formation, particularly with regard to variables such as race, socio-economic status, age, and religious background will also be modeled using recent advances in network analysis. The relative size of population subgroups from the two semi-autonomous communities will serve as a baseline from which to measure the nonrandom component of partner selection. Event-history analyses will be used to determine the conditions under which people enter and withdraw from the network of sexual access.


The following links to the data and documentation for the public use version of NHSLS include the codebook, and data files in SAS, SPSS, and STATA formats.

This version of the NHSLS 1992 defers slightly from a previously released version; changes are discussed in the Errata.




Technical questions about the data or documentation should be referred to the Data Archive at the Social Science Reasearch Computing Center at the University of Chicago,


[ Return to Top ]