National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1997 (NLSY97)

​As a participant in the NLSY97, you are a crucial part of one of the most interesting and informative surveys in the U.S. The NLSY97 is a vital source of information for policy makers and researchers who want to know more about the experiences and concerns of people in your generation. The survey includes people who were born in the years 1980 to 1984 and living in the U.S. when the survey began in 1997.

From the Director of the National Longitudinal Surveys (NLSY)

Your Participation Makes a Difference!

Welcome to Round 15 of the NLSY97. We are delighted to celebrate 15 years of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 with you! Your participation in the survey remains critical in order to obtain the most complete picture of your generation. Your contribution is vital to the quality and accuracy of information found in the NLSY97.

There is no other survey quite like the NLSY97. The wide range of topics covered over a long period of time makes the NLSY97 a treasure of information. One of the wonderful things about the survey is that it becomes even more useful each year we interview you. As of the beginning of May 2011, researchers have used information from the NLSY97 to publish 21 book chapters and 177 articles in scholarly journals. More than 30 of those articles have been published in 2010 or 2011, which shows the rapidly growing interest among researchers in issues that affect your generation.

We need your help again this year to continue the success of the NLSY97.

Perhaps you participate to make sure policymakers understand the issues that concern you and your family. Perhaps you want to make sure researchers have the best information available on changes in your career, family, health, education, and other important aspects of your life. Perhaps you enjoy the cash incentive. Whatever your reason for participating, we hope you will join us again this year. If it has been a while since you last participated, we invite you back and would love to have you actively involved again in the NLSY97.

We’re always seeking ways to make your interview experience more enjoyable. We know that finding the time to speak with an interviewer can be tough—which is why we are willing to conduct the interview at a time and place of your choosing. If you have any concerns or suggestions about how we can improve your experience, please tell us by contacting the NORC field manager in your area, sending an e-mail to nlsy97@norc.org, or filling out the comments box on the "Update Contact Info" page.

Thank you for your continued participation and interest in the NLSY97.

Yours truly,

Chuck Pierret
Director of the National Longitudinal Surveys

FAQs List

What is the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97)?

​Approximately 9,000 young adults from across the nation participate in the NLSY97 annual survey. It gathers information on how you make transitions in your life: between school and work, moving from one household to another, or from job to job. As you move through your life, new subjects like marriage, family, and career changes will be introduced into the survey. This allows the NLSY97 to depict the decisions and life experiences of the Millennial Generation in America.

I've been hearing things about privacy and identity theft in the media lately. Will my answers be made public or will my information be given to anyone else?

We take our legal and ethical obligations to protect your confidentiality very seriously. Without your trust and cooperation, the NLSY97 would not be such a rich source of information. Researchers and policy makers use the information that you provide to help them understand the work experiences, family characteristics, health, financial status, and other important aspects about the lives of people in your generation. These researchers and policy makers are never provided with your name, address, phone number, Social Security number, or any other information that could reveal your personal identity. For more information, please see our web page about Protecting Your Privacy.

Why do you ask for what seems to be the very same information every year?

​We know it can get tedious to answer the same questions year after year. But just think of everything you’ve experienced since we last talked! It is important for us to capture what has and has not changed in your life, so we can present an accurate picture of your generation. The only way we can do so is by asking you the same questions year after year. Although many of the questions remain the same, each year we review and revise the questions so they reflect the changes in your own life experiences.

Can I do the survey myself online?

​Not yet, but we continue to explore ways to permit online participation in the future for people who would prefer to provide their information in that way. Before we introduce an online version of the survey, we need to make sure that any online system will completely protect your confidentiality and maintain the accuracy of the information you provide.

How long does a typical interview last?

​Typically, interviews last about one hour. The length of an interview depends on each individual and what has happened in your life since we last spoke. We know your time is valuable and limited, and we take that into consideration when we design the survey. If it is more convenient for you, we can break up the interview into smaller parts in order to gather all of the information in two or more sessions.

Why do you ask for such personal information?

​Do you ever wonder, "Do they really need to know that?" The answer is, "Yes, we do!" One of the many things that make this survey unique is the range of topics that we cover — including topics that may be very personal. The NLSY97 is one of the few surveys available to researchers and policy makers that collects an extensive amount of information over a number of years. To learn more about this research, visit our Interesting Findings About NLSY97 section of the site.

Are my answers made public?

​The results of the survey are publicly available, and can be downloaded for free from our website. Rest assured that personal identifiers (your name, address, Social Security number, and place of work) and geographic identifiers (such as State, County and ZIP code of residence) have been removed from the public data files. This makes it extremely difficult for anyone to associate you with specific answers.

In addition to the public files, a few researchers are granted special access to data files that include some of the geographic identifiers listed above. These researchers must complete a thorough application process at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. If they receive authorization, these researchers must sign a written agreement making them official agents of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are required to protect the confidentiality of survey participants. They are never provided with the personal identities of participants. To find out more about who has access to your data, please see visit our Protecting Your Privacy page.

Who uses this information?

​The primary users of our data are professors, researchers, and students at universities and research centers across the country. Other users include those in the government, nonprofit sector and the media. These users conduct research on a wide variety of topics that include economics, demography, sociology, psychology, criminology, and health. To find out more about how the data are used, please visit our Interesting Findings About NLSY97 section of the site.

How is the information collected?

​As you know from experience, we collect your information during an in-person interview with the use of a laptop computer. In addition, a small number of interviews are conducted over the phone. We will use this format again for this year’s collection. And we have approximately 200 interviewers returning to conduct interviews with 9,000 of our wonderful participants!

How many years will I be asked to participate in this survey?

​A longitudinal survey requires that the same respondents are interviewed over a specified period of time. We hope the NLSY97 will continue for many more years. Thanks to all of you who have participated since 1997, the survey has been successful beyond our dreams. Researchers and policy makers in a variety of fields regard the NLSY97 as the gold standard for surveys, and information from the NLSY97 becomes more valuable and useful each year it is conducted. As long as funding continues to be available, we intend to keep asking you about your experiences for years to come.

Who conducts the survey?

​The main sponsor of this survey is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. The BLS produces a number of important economic indicators that measure aspects of the U.S. economy such as inflation, employment, and productivity. Other federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Justice, also contribute funding to the survey.

The BLS contracts out the work of the survey to two survey research organizations,  NORC at the University of Chicago, and the Center for Human Resource Research at the Ohio State University.

How does this survey differ from other surveys that ask similar questions?

​Unlike other surveys, we survey the same respondents every year. This allows us to find cause-and-effect relationships in the data. For example, we can determine:

  • The factors that influence a person's decision to enter or leave the labor force, or to re-enter it after a period away from work
  • The effectiveness of various job training programs
  • The ways in which education, social attitudes, and family background affect individual opportunities for employment and advancement; and
  • Many other aspects of a person's experience in the labor market
Will the interviews take longer because there’s an extra year gap?
Our objective is to maintain a one-hour interview as we have had. Our questionnaire design team worked to adapt the interview to incorporate questions that will take into account this extra year in between your interview while not increasing the length of the questionnaire. They have tailored it to make it easier to recall information over time, allowing us to accurately collect all of the incredibly important information you provide.
Will the interview cover any different topics?
We anticipate that there will be new questions, because as our nation changes we will want to ask you how these changes are reflected in your life. The interview will still have many of the same sections that you are accustomed to which collect your household, employment, schooling and training information as these core elements provide the foundation of the NLS which informs economic policy.  Work will continue during this transition to the 2-year cycle to keep improving the flow of the questionnaire. Any parts that may seem repetitive have been designed to most accurately capture your situation.
Will the interview still be as repetitive?
While many questions will be familiar to you, you will also notice many changes. Each round, our questionnaire design team reviews your feedback and that of our field interviewers to improve the interviewing experience for you. Work will continue during this transition to the 2-year cycle to keep improving the flow of the questionnaire. Any parts that may seem repetitive have been designed to most accurately capture your situation.
Why wasn’t I always interviewed every two years if it doesn’t hurt the data?
An important aspect of the NLSY97 is the focus on your transition from your teenage years into schooling, training, the workforce, and your own family creation. We have been with you as you have experienced many of these transitions, and at this point we can still accurately capture these major life events through interviews every two years. Earlier in the study, given the speed in which life changes can occur, interviews every two years might have caused us to miss out on key periods in your life.
Why not go to every three years (etc.)?
While changes in your life continue, many of the changes we measure have slowed, yet are important enough that you can accurately remember over a 2-year period. Past research has shown that two years between surveys is the optimal length to allow for people’s recall to be accurate for these key events, yet doesn’t require us to lengthen the interview substantially.
What if I still want to be interviewed every year?
We truly appreciate your enthusiasm for wanting to participate. In order to gather data in a consistent manner with all of the respondents in the survey, every respondent is only eligible for one interview every two years starting after the 2011-2012 wave of interviewing.
Will this ever be a web survey?
We are working to make the survey process more technologically accessible to reflect the ways in which you use technology in your daily lives. Texting, emailing, and web updates at www.norc.org/nlsy97 are all recent advances that we hope are making interacting easier. We continue to evolve parts of the survey into a web based format and hope to be able to offer this mode of completion in future rounds of the study. Until that time, we will continue to conduct interviews primarily in person.
How often and in what ways will I hear from you between now and the next round?
You can always visit our website, www.norc.org/nlsy97 at your convenience to update your information and to get caught up with the most recent uses and applications of the information you provide each year. We will also be sending you a mailing and/or email to inform you of some of the most recent happenings with the NLSY97. And we will continue to send you the address update card similar to the one you have received before each interview round starts. The card will ask you to update us via mail, email, phone, text, or the NLSY97 website with your most updated address information so that we are able to contact you easily for your interview.

Welcome to the 16th Round of NLSY97

Click here to read a note for NLSY participants

More Information

View more information about this project at: www.norc.org/nlsy97