Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the Family Economics Study?
    FES began in 1968 with 5,000 families and has studied the progress of families in the United States over the last half century. FES collects information about families’ health, activities at work and school, and how they are doing financially. With FES, researchers and policy makers study how families change from one generation to the next.

  2. Why should my family participate? Why not interview across the street?
    We cannot talk to all of the millions of families in this country - that would cost too much and take too long. We carefully select households by chance, like in a lottery. This means that your family cannot be replaced. Choosing households by chance lets us gather information from selected families and use it to better understand all families in the United States.

  3. Do we have to answer the questions?
    Your family’s help with this study is voluntary. Most people find the interview interesting and enjoyable. Your participation is very important because each person interviewed represents thousands of others. You may choose not to answer any question for any reason and may stop the interview at any time.

  4. Who is conducting the Family Economics Study?
    The interviews are conducted by professional interviewers from the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan is one of the nation's leading research universities and has over 50 years of experience conducting national studies. University of Michigan interviewers contact FES participants by telephone or at their homes. An interviewer who comes to your home will have a University of Michigan identification badge with his or her picture on it.

  5. How and when do we do our FES interview?
    A professional interviewer from the University of Michigan will call or visit you for the FES interview. You can choose to be interviewed right away or you may set up an appointment for a later time. After your first interview, FES will contact you again in two years to find out how life has changed.

  6. What kinds of questions do you ask?
    Interviewers will ask a wide range of questions covering health, family background, work, education, and similar topics. There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions.

  7. Will our answers be kept private?
    Yes, your answers will always be kept private. Researchers will never be able to connect your answers to you personally. Your responses will be combined with those of thousands of others' and reported in ways that will not reveal your answers. Everyone who works on the project has made a pledge to protect your privacy.

  8. Does our family get anything for participating?
    We know families in our study are very busy. Families who complete our interview will receive a payment to thank them for their time. Your family will also have the satisfaction of helping with this important national study by sharing your experiences.

  9. Who sponsors FES?
    The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sponsor FES.

  10. How is FES being used for research?
    The answers you give will help public policy makers design services and programs to improve quality of life in the United States. Research findings from FES contribute to what we know about family well-being. Some recent examples highlighted in newspapers and magazines include:

    • The happier a wife is in a long-term marriage, the happier her husband, regardless of how he personally feels about the marriage. 9/15/14 (Medical News Today)
    • College graduates earn an extra $831,000 over their working lives compared to high school graduates. 5/5/14 (Time)
    • Donating to charity is related to better physical and mental health later in life. 2/1/15 (Wall Street Journal)