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FAMREL states the person's relationship to their Census-defined subfamily unit. The Census subfamily type is identified in FTYPE. Values of Census family-level variables such as FTOTVAL are valid for the respective subfamily unit.

Note that IPUMS and the Census Bureau define subfamilies differently. Subfamilies in IPUMS CPS can be identified using the variables MOMLOC, POPLOC and SPLOC. Any subfamilies identified using these variables are not necessarily the same as any Census subfamilies. The IPUMS-defined variable FAMUNIT identifies families according to IPUMS rules (not Census rules), but does not identify (related) subfamilies. FAMREL and FTYPE refer to Census-defined subfamilies. See here for a description of IPUMS subfamilies and their relation to Census subfamilies. IPUMS CPS does not currently offer IPUMS subfamily identifiers such as IPUMS USA's SUBFAM. Below is a brief description of the Census family/subfamily concept as it concerns FAMREL.

Each CPS household has one person designated as the householder, who is the person in whose name the housing unit is rented or own. The CPS splits households into family, subfamily, and individual units. The primary family is the householder and everyone related to the householder. For the purposes of FAMREL and FTYPE, and following some CPS documentation, "primary family" will be used as shorthand for "primary family only", or the householder and his/her immediate family: that is, the primary family less any subfamily units. In addition to the primary family, a household can also contain subfamily units related to the primary family (related subfamily, or subfamily units that are extended family to the householder), as well as unrelated subfamily units, which are immediate family units with no relation to the householder. Additionally, the household can contain individuals who are not part of any family/subfamily unit, such as guests, boarders, or individual resident employees (i.e. those not living with the resident employee's family). Finally, the householder can also be someone without any relatives in the household, and so is not part of any family unit. More details on the family composition of households and the official CPS definitions can be found in the description for FTYPE.

For the purposes of FAMREL, each subfamily (including the "primary family only" subfamily) has a reference person. Thus the "reference person" for FAMREL can be in the primary family or any other subfamily unit. (Note that in some CPS documentation the term "reference person" refers to the householder only; FAMREL, which is based on the CPS variable PRFAMREL/A-FAMREL, uses the term slightly differently).

Note that since FAMREL gives the relationship to the subfamily unit, which may not be the entire household, the relationship given by FAMREL is not necessarily the same as the individual's relationship to the householder (RELATE). Thus, for example, a grandchild of the household head could be the reference person of a related subfamily. Additionally, since FAMUNIT is IPUMS-derived and also does not identify related subfamilies, the family identified by FAMUNIT will be different from the subfamily unit that FAMREL refers to.

Since FAMREL identifies the way in which the individual is related to the subfamily unit, for most years a child (FAMREL=3) can be of any age, and if under 18 can be or have been married. "Not a family member" refers to nonfamily householders or individuals unrelated to any subfamily units in the family (secondary individuals).


In 1962-1967, CPS uses "wife" instead of "spouse", and code 3 (Child) refers to only those under 18 years of age.

The 1976-1987 ASEC samples do not have an equivalent variable available, so FAMREL is unavailable for those samples.


  • All persons.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1962 – 1967 - - X - - - - - - - - - -
1984 – 1987 X X - X X X X X X X X X X
1988 – 2023 X X X X X X X X X X X X X
2024 X X - X X X - - - - - - -


This variable has no flags.