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Household food security scale

Codes and Frequencies

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FSSTATUS identifies the 12-month food security status of the household. Households are classified as food secure, low food secure or very low food secure. FSSTATUSD provides detailed food security status.

The food security measures in the Current Population Survey were developed by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These measures are designed to identify households that for economic reasons experience limited or uncertain access to adequate food. The food security scale includes 18 questions in total, 10 on household as a whole and the adults in the household and 8 on any children in the household.

The USDA provides the following definitions of food security:

High food security: "Households had no problems, or anxiety about, consistently accessing adequate food".

Marginal food security: "Households had problems at times, or anxiety about, accessing adequate food, but the quality, variety, and quantity of their food intake were not substantially reduced".

Low food security: "Households reduced the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets, but the quantity of food intake and normal eating patterns were not substantially disrupted".

Very low food security: "At times during the year, eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced because the household lacked money and other resources for food".

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 they 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 as 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.

FSSTATUS is available since 1998, when the current food security questionnaire and screening questions were implemented consistently. Researchers wishing to study longer-run historical trends should use FSSTATUS95, but should be aware that this measure underestimates food insecurity in some cases.

This variable is part of the Food Security Supplement.


This variable is comparable across available years. Prior to 2005, the category low food security was labeled food insecurity without hunger. Very low food security was labeled food insecurity with hunger. The current labels were adopted following the recommendations of the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT), an arm of the National Research Council (a body of the National Academies). The rules for coding food insecurity did not change when the labels were modified.

In 1998, 1999, and 2007, food security data are not available for all rotation groups. The food security status weight FSHWTSCALE should be used when analyzing the food security scales.


  • Aug 1998 and Apr 1999: All households in month-in-sample 1-7.
  • 2000-2006, 2008+: All households.
  • Apr 2001: All households in months-in-sample 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8.
  • Dec 2007: All households in month-in-sample 1, 2, 4-7.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1998 - - - - - - - X - - - -
1999 - - - X - - - - - - - -
2000 - - - - - - - - X - - -
2001 - - - X - - - - - - - X
2002 – 2016 - - - - - - - - - - - X


This variable has no flags.