Speaking for Herself: Changing Gender Roles in Survey Response

February 28, 2019
By Sabrina Minhas, Assistant Economist and Amy Oksol, Research Associate


Research Working PaperFemale respondents to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics have increased over time, revealing potential issues with historic data quality.

Among married and cohabiting couples, the percentage of female respondents has increased substantially in the PSID (Panel Study of Income Dynamics) from 9% in 1968 to 60% in 2015. This shift in gender composition has taken place despite a formal policy that historically designated male heads of household as respondents. We use this shift as a case study to explore which characteristics are associated with women responding to the PSID and how different respondent gender compositions may affect data quality. First, we find that women are increasingly less likely to respond as their husband’s income increases or if their husband is highly educated. Women are more likely to respond if they are more educated than their husband. Second, we find that male respondents tend to report incomes about $5,000 higher than female respondents. Had the gender composition of respondents been closer to 50/50, average household income would have been reduced by as much as $2,500. Our research provides important insights into the quality of survey data and the changing role of women in households.

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RWP 19-01, February 2019

JEL Classification: J10, J16, C80

Article Citation

  • Minhas, Sabrina, and Amy Oksol. 2019. “Speaking for Herself: Changing Gender Roles in Survey Response.” Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Research Working Paper no. 19-01, January. Available at https://doi.org/10.18651/RWP2019-01

Related Research

  • Lee, Jungmin, and Sokbae Lee. 2012. “Does it Matter Who Responded to the Survey? Trends in the U.S. Gender Earnings Gap Revisited.” ILR Review, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 148–160.
  • Murray-Close, Marta, and Misty L. Heggeness. 2018., “Manning Up and Womaning Down: How Husbands and Wives Report Their Earnings When She Earns More.” U.S. Census Bureau, SESHD Working paper no. 2018–20.
  • Smith, James P., John J. McArdle, and Robert Willis. 2010. “Financial Decision Making and Cognition in a Family Context.” The Economic Journal, vol. 120, no. 549, pp. F363–F380.

About the Authors

Sabrina Minhas is an assistant economist and conducts research on payment systems, financial inclusion, and community development. Amy Oksol is a research associate and conducts research on the Chinese economy and international trade.