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Detailed Household food security scale

Codes and Frequencies

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FSSTATUSD identifies the detailed food security status of the household. Households are classified as high food security, marginal food security, low food security, and very low food security.

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 each of the food security questions and the presence of children in the household.

Households are classified as high food security if they report no food insecure conditions than three food insecure conditions. Households with incomes greater than 185% of the poverty line are asked two screening questions about food insecurity and if they report no instances of food insecurity are also categorized as high food secure. Households classified as marginal food security are those reporting one or two food insecure conditions.

Households without children are classified as low food security if they report 3-5 food insecure 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.

FSSTATUSD 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 all years. Prior to the 2005 sample, low food security was labeled food insecure without hunger. Very low food security was labeled food insecure with hunger and was subdivided into two categories. Marginal food security was not identified prior to 2005. These changes were recommended by a National Academy of Science panel. For consistent analysis over time, we apply the current definitions for years before 2005.

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 months-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 – 2022 - - - - - - - - - - - X


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