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The UAS Health and Retirement project in the Understanding America Study was inspired by a panel study conducted by the University of Michigan. That undertaking, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) administers a series of surveys to approximately 20,000 Americans over the age of 50 every two years. The UAS conducts the same series of surveys, but with some key differences:

  • While the HRS surveys are designed for face-to-face interviews, the UAS surveys have been made more amenable to a self-administered web survey.
  • The UAS administers its surveys to every participant, not just those aged 50 and older.
  • UAS participants are invited to answer the series of surveys every two years, like the HRS, but respondents take the surveys at different times, dependent upon when they completed the previous HRS series.

The UAS Health and Retirement surveys cover a wide range of ground including (but not limited to) physical health, cognitive functioning, disability, family structure, work, income, assets, pension plans, health insurance, and health care expenditures. For the baseline surveys (surveys filled out by UAS respondents the first time round) the content is drawn from the HRS 2014 surveys. Surveys conducted consecutively every two years are based on the corresponding year within the University of Michigan's study (e.g. 2016 for the second wave of the surveys).

To learn more about a wave, please just use the links below:


Public Use File

In addition to the raw HRS data available through the UAS Data Dissemination web site, a cleaned up public use file is also offered. The UAS HRS data on the file are standardized variables from the first (Wave 1) fielding of UAS HRS surveys. These standardized variables are similar in structure to what is found on the RAND HRS file produced by the RAND Corporation.  This was done to promote familiarity with the UAS HRS Public Use data if users have worked with the RAND HRS data previously. The current version of the Public Use File can be downloaded here (registration required) and it focuses on measures related to financial decision‑making such as income, housing, and financial wealth. For a detailed explanation please have a look at the UAS HRS Public Use File Data Description.