Frequently asked questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the American Life Panel Data Pages. Should the answer to your question not be listed here, please just contact us at alpdata@rand.org.

What is the American Life Panel, and how can I use it for research?

For information on the American Life Panel, please click here: https://www.rand.org/labor/alp.html

How do I navigate to a particular survey or question?

Start off by clicking on Data in the navigation bar at the top of the screen. This will bring up a list of all available surveys. Next, to find more information for a survey, click on the link on the name of the survey. This will take you to the Survey Page. At the top of this page you will find a brief description of the survey, who the survey author(s) are and a link providing access to the response rate overview. Below that you will see a table of modules.

To go into an individual module, simply click on the name of the module. This will open the Module Page, which displays a table listing all the questions in the module. To further drill down to a particular question, just click on a question name. The resulting Question Page will provide you with the question specifics, such as the question label, question text, answer categories (if applicable), and any relevant notes. If available, an aggregate overview of the data associated with the question will also be shown.

I am lost. How do I get back to the overview of available surveys?

At the top of each Survey Page, Module Page, or Question Page you will find a set of navigation links that assist you with moving back to where you came from. For example, to get back to the main page after opening a particular survey, click on "All surveys". If you are in a particular module, clicking on the survey name will bring you back to the Survey Page. If you are viewing a specific question, clicking the module name will take you back to the Module Page.

How do I access the data?

Once you have registered as an ALP Data Pages user (click here to register), you can download data for an individual survey from its Survey Page. You will find the download link towards the bottom of the page below the "Data" header.

Please note that if the status of survey data says "Under Embargo", this means that the data is not currently available to the public. Only survey authors who have registered as an ALP Data Pages user can access the data at this time. Surveys under embargo are highlighted in pink and include a lock symbol. If you click on the survey, you will see under "Description" the date the survey embargo will be lifted.

STATA says that it cannot open my dataset. What is wrong?

Sometimes the size of a downloaded dataset will be larger than the default allowance for Stata. In this case, please consult the information pertaining to your version of Stata. Generally, you will want to try one of the "set memory" commands in order to increase the size allowance and view the dataset.

There are variables in my dataset that don't have any values. Did something go wrong with the data export?

It's possible that those datasets contain variables that have no data. One possible reason for this is that the variables concerned have simply not been asked yet (e.g. due to the skip patterns implemented within the survey or to simply not being used at all). Please check the paper version of the survey available on the Survey page to find out if this is the case. Another potential reason is that these variables were merely used to present information to the respondent rather than soliciting an answer to a question. Should none of the above apply, then please contact us at alp@rand.org with details about the survey dataset (or set of variables from different surveys) that you were trying to download.

Can I find out how questions in a survey were asked?

Under the "Metadata" header on each Survey Page you can download the survey paper version. This document describes which questions were asked in the survey and in accordance with which logic.

Is there a way to learn details about how many respondents participated in a survey?

Details on the response rate for individual surveys are accessible through the "response overview" link on each Survey Page.

How can I identify and match panel members that participated in multiple surveys?

Each American Life Panel member is assigned an unique identifier. This identifier is used during survey data collection to link data to particular members. Identifiers are of the form 12345678:1, where the part before the ":" (i.e. 12345678) represents the household identifier, whereas the suffix behind the ":" represent the household member identifier.

I have cases in my dataset where the identifier ends in ':2' or ':3'. What does that mean?

Although the American Life Panel is primarily an individual panel, there are households that consist of multiple respondents. In such cases all respondents within the household share the same household identifier (everything before the ":"), but differ in their suffix behind the ":". To find out the relationship between the primary respondent in the household (with suffix ":1") and other household members, you can consult the household members module in the Household information survey.

What happens if people move out of a multi-respondent household?

In the event that a household member moves out of a household consisting of multiple respondent but remains a panel member, s/he is assigned a new identifier. In order to be able to trace respondents in the data as they migrate in and/or out of households, each dataset for a survey contains a variable called 'oldprim_key' (located in the Demographics module of the survey), which will contain the previous identifier of a respondent. The variable will have no value for a respondent if s/he did not previously have a different identifier. A complete household migration file is available for download from the Survey Page of the household information survey.