RAND HRS Fat Files, Supported by NIA

We have produced versions of the "raw” data distributed by HRS, which take the variables from most survey modules, and merge them into a single Respondent-level dataset for each wave. The RAND HRS Longitudinal File development begins with the RAND HRS Fat Files. They are easily merged with one another and with the RAND HRS Longitudinal File, which can expedite the preparation of analytic files from HRS.

Among the enhancements:

  • The HRS data in some modules contain household-level variables, such as information on assets. We merged the information from these modules to each Respondent in the household. This eliminates the need to search through modules for particular variables, and facilitates merging files across waves.
  • The HRS collects some individual-level information by asking one household member to answer about another. For example, the Financial Respondent provides earnings information for both her/himself, and her/his spouse. We have reassigned this data to "self” and "spouse/partner" variables for both Respondents to clarify to whom the information applies.

There is one Fat File per year for 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, and biennially 1996-2016. Each file contains all the raw variables collected at the Respondent or household-level, except those from "Other Person" modules (i.e., data on children, siblings, household members, helpers, and transfers between Respondents and their children). Users should also note the following:

  • The 1992 and 1994 Fat Files include all the raw variables.
  • The 2002 Fat File does not include the raw variables from the pension preloads (PR_P) or the asset reconciliation (U_A) modules.
  • The 2012 – 2016 Fat Files do not include the raw variables from the pension (PR_P) or jobs (PR_JB) preloads modules. The raw variables from the pension (J_P) module, however, are included in the Fat Files, and have been transposed to the Respondent level.

To access the data:

  • All RAND HRS data products are available at: https://hrsdata.isr.umich.edu/data-products/rand.
  • The RAND HRS Fat Files can be found in the "Biennial Data" section on the left-hand side of the page.
  • You will be able to see the data descriptions and documentation without an account, but you will need to register with HRS to access the data.
  • User note: This is a new data downloads system as of September 1st, 2020. If you have an account on the old system but have not created a new account since September 1st, 2020, you will need to create a new account. You can use the same email address as your previous account. (You will not need to create a new account if you have used this system to apply for or manage an HRS Restricted Data Agreement since November 2019.)
  • Once your account is active and you have logged in, you will be able to see the data download links for each RAND HRS data product (and other public HRS data products).

For more detailed information, please see the following documents:

RAND HRS Fat Files Documentation Help Using RAND HRS Data Products FAQ

These documents provide information on what has been added to raw HRS data in these files, but they are not codebooks or questionnaires. The HRS Codebooks and Questionnaires may be found on the HRS website.


For more information, questions or comments please see our FAQ or email us at RANDHRSHelp@rand.org.

Before doing so, however, we kindly request that users first consult the documentation that accompanies our data products, as we have found that our responses often point users to specific sections of the documentation that provide further detail on the variables mentioned in the users’ queries.

In addition, we recommend that users become familiar with some of the information provided on the HRS website, such as the HRS questionnaires and codebooks for the key variables under study.

We have also found the concordance tool extremely useful to help find available variables across waves: