months, since December of last year, did you ever cut the size of (your child’s/any of the children’s) meals because there wasn’t enough money for food?”), and children within the household (e.g., “In the last 12 months, did (your child/any of the children) ever skip a meal because there wasn’t enough money for food?”). Moreover, the questions (as administered) are not grouped by reference unit but move among the household, the children, adults in the household, and the respondent.
The unit referred to changes within question. For example, one of the questions presents the following to the respondent:
“The food that (I/we) bought just didn’t last, and (I/we) didn’t have money to get more. Was that often, sometimes, or never true for you in the last 12 months?” In households with more than one adult, the statement uses the plural “we,” but the target question asks about “you.”
Although some respondents may infer that “you” refers to “your household,” others may simply shift focus to the easier unit to report about, the respondent himself or herself.
The unit is an aggregate unit that implicitly requires that the respondent aggregate or summarize in order to describe the unit. In responding to the statement “(I/We) worried whether (my/our) food would run out before (I/we) got money to buy more. Was that often true, sometimes true, or never true for (you/your household) in the last 12 months?” the respondent must summarize the experience of multiple adults. These experiences may be variable within household—one person may worry sometimes, another may never worry. It is not clear whether the respondent should report that “your household” worries if at least one adult worries or only if all adults worry. Similarly, the question assumes that there is some economic sharing among the adults in the household, so that it makes sense to say, “before we got money to buy more.” It is not clear how many adults would need to “get money to buy more” and which adults they must be willing to share the food they buy with.
Many questions ask for proxy reports. The respondent may not know how often all the adults in the household cut the size of meals or skip meals. If the respondent is not the person who feeds the children, she or he may not know how often the size of the children’s meals was cut. Several of the questions in the HFSSM and the FSS appear to use “you” as singular to refer to the respondent themselves (e.g., “did you ever eat less than you