This study, based upon data from 40 non-demented Parkinson's disease cases and 101 community controls, and similar data provided by either the spouse (n = 110) or an adult child (n = 31) of each index subject, attempted to assess the usefulness of various demographic data provided by the surrogate respondents for the index subjects. The data were collected by personal interview using a structured questionnaire specifically developed for this study. Ninety-one percent of the index subjects and their surrogates provided information on the annual family income and 98% provided other demographic information. The analysis was done by three groups: the case-surrogates, the control-surrogates and the combined index subject-surrogates, and within each group by the two types of surrogates for the index subjects: the spouse vs adult child. The overall percent agreement between the index subjects and their surrogates varied from moderate for annual family income (54.1%), to good for educational level (61.6%) and to excellent for ethnic origin (82.6%), for age +/- 1 year (97.9%) and for marital status (100.0%). No significant differences in agreement were found for any of these demographic variables either between the case-surrogate group and the control-surrogate group, or between the spouse surrogates and the child surrogates. These findings suggest that spouses and adult children can provide valid information and are equally reliable informants concerning the demographic characteristics of index subjects in a case-control study of Parkinson's disease and, possibly, of other diseases.