National Longitudinal Survey of Youth - 1997

The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), sponsored and funded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor, is the youth-focused component of the National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) Program – a set of surveys used to gather information on the labor market experiences of American men and women.

The U.S. Department of Labor began the NLS Program in the mid-1960s with surveys of four separate groups: older men, mature women, young men and young women. Research based on the data from these four cohorts serves as a basis for the accumulated knowledge on which social and economic policy is formulated. These surveys provide much of what we know about the return on investments in schooling, career progression, job turnover, hours of work, and wages of the U.S. labor force. Government agencies and academic institutions regularly utilize the data and findings of these longitudinal surveys in their recommendations to – and testimony before – Congress.

In 1997, a representative sample of U.S. households was selected from 200 National Frame Areas for the NLSY97. In the spring of 1997, interviewers screened some 91,000 households in all of these NFAs to identify families who had children between the ages of 12 and 16. From these identified families, approximately 9,000 youths agreed to be respondents in the NLSY97. NORC has conducted annual interviews with these individuals since they were selected. The cohort members are now between the ages of 32 and 36.

The NLSY97 provides significant insight into employment and unemployment trends that other surveys do not track, such as: initiation into the job market, skill sets to prepare for transition into other jobs, periods of unemployment – particularly repeated periods of unemployment – and academic or military experiences. Because longitudinal surveys, such as the NLSY, track the same individuals over time, the NLSY gives a more in-depth and complete picture of the labor market and provides unique, important insight into the experiences of adolescents as they enter the job market for the first time.

The strategic management of the NLSY97 is achieving increasing response rates through targeted gaining cooperation materials and techniques, extensive tracking and locating techniques, using technological innovations and improving efficiency. This national large-scale, multi-mode longitudinal field data collection effort includes web, CAPI, ACASI, CARI, IVR, and PAPI data collection for this youth population. The fieldings have included the use of scanners, GIS data, GPS technology, and biomeasure collection from the youth. The project continues to be at the cutting edge of confidentiality and data security strategies.

The NLS bibliography database houses nearly 6,700 summaries of ongoing and completed research projects, including published journal articles, government reports, policy analyses, monographs, working papers, conference presentations, doctoral dissertations, and master’s theses. Team members on the NLS Program routinely attend professional meetings of economists, demographers, social policy analysts, sociologists, and developmental psychologists, promoting the use of these data by presentations, poster sessions, and the like. In the past four years, members of the NLSY management team have successfully offered four variations on courses at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies that principally feature NLS data.

Due to the success of the data collection - high response rates and solid data quality, combined with the many related topic areas well covered within the questionnaire, key staff members have been consultants to other birth cohorts and presented survey information internationally, in particular England, Australia, Korea, China, and Germany.


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