NLSY79 Data Overview

Surveys of the NLSY contain core sets of questions on NLSY Major Data Elements. Although information on these topical areas has been collected during each survey years, users should be aware that the number of questions on a given topic as well as the working and universe for each question may differ from year to year.

Additional sets of questions on a variety of factors potentially impacting on a young person's labor force attachment have been included during select survey years. The initial survey collect information on family background, knowledge of the world of work, a retrospective evaluation of labor market experience, the influence of significant others, and an abbreviated Rotter locus of control scale. Subsequent surveys have included questions on, for example, job search methods, migration, attitudes towards work, educational/occupational aspirations and expectations, school discipline, self-esteem, child care, pre- and post-natal health behaviors, drug and alcohol use, delinquency, time use, AIDS knowledge, childhood residence and neighborhood problems.

Finally, NLSY respondents have been the subject of a number of special surveys including the High School and Transcript Surveys, conducted by the National Center for Research in Vocational Education, the Profile of American Youth - ASVAB administration sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, and the NICHD sponsored child assessments.

Major Data Elements

Major data elements for the NLSY are listed and briefly described below. These categories include information available not only on the NLSY main files but the workhistory and geocode constructed data files. This listing is by not means comprehensive and not all data elements are necessarily present for all respondents in all survey years.
Demographic & Family Background Characteristics
Household Composition
Educational Status & Attainment
High School Experiences
Aptitude & Intelligence Scores
Government Training and Jobs
Military Experience
Labor Market Activity & Transitions
Detailed Workhistories
Marital History
Child Care
Income & Assets
Alcohol & Stubstance Use
Illegal Activities
Attitudes & Aspirations
Geographic Information
Detailed Geocode Data Files
Geographic Proximity / Mobility Matches
1. Demographic & Family Background Characteristics. Information on each respondent's racial/ethnic identification, sex, date of birth, state or country of birth, number of siblings, parents' birthplace-education-work experience, religious affiliation, childhood residences from birth to age 18, and 1990 immigration/visa status has been collected during select survey years.

2. Household Composition. For each household member living in the respondent's household at the time of the survey, information is available on the person's sex, relationship to respondent, age, highest grade completed, and work experience in the past year.

3. Educational Status & Attainment. Current school enrollment status, highest grade attended or completed, attainment of high school diploma or GED, type of high school curriculum, college status, major field of study at college, and types(s) of college degrees are available.

4. High School Experiences. Transcript data is available for 8,778 NLSY respondents who were expected to complete high school during the 1980-1983 survey years. Information on up to 64 high school courses, including course descriptions, final grades, and credit received, was collected. In addition, data were gathered from the record of the last secondary school attended by the NLSY respondents. This set of variables includes both respondent-specific and school-specific information on such factors as: (a) the respondent's school enrollment status, high grade attended, remedial classes taken, and scores/percentiles/grade levels for various intelligence and aptitude tests administered during the youth's schooling; and (b) each school's total enrollment, grading system, types of curricula offered, dropout rate, student body composition, and staffing characteristics.

5. Aptitude & Intelligence Scores. In addition to the aptitude and intelligence scores collected during the survey of high schools described above, scores from the 1980 administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) are available for 11,914 NLSY respondents. These data include individual respondent raw scores, standard scores, scale scores, and standard errors for each of the ten test sections, e.g. general science, arithmetic reasoning, work knowledge, mechanical comprehension, etc., and two constructed AFQT (Armed Forces Qualifications Test) scores.

6. Training. Types of non-governmental sponsored vocation/technical training programs in which a respondent was enrolled since the last interview including information on the occupation in which training was received, dates of enrollment and completion, type of school, any subsequent training received and types of certificates or licenses received has been collected. The 1993 survey included a series of questions on the method(s) used to learn skills required on the current job and the potential transferability of skills acquired in various on and off the job training programs in which the respondent had participated.

7. Government Training & Jobs Data are available on government-sponsored training programs in which a respondent was enrolled since the last interview including current enrollment status, dates/hours of participation, periods of non participation, whether the program was part of JTPA/CETA or WIN, type of occupation or on-the-job training received, types of classroom training and supportive services provided, and rate of pay during participation. Information on jobs in which a respondent was employed, including occupation code, types of classroom training/supportive services provided and job placement information, is collected along with detailed job information in a respondent identifies a job as government-sponsored. Government training and employment were abbreviated in the post-1986 surveys.

8. Military Experience. Information on enlistment intentions, attitudes toward the military, dates of military service/reserve duty, branch of service, military occupation, pay grade, income, education/training received, and reasons left military or re enlisted is available. The military experience questions were abbreviated after 1985.

9. Labor Market Activity & Transitions. Data include current labor force status, i.e., activity during most of the survey week (employed, unemployed, out of the labor force) as well as, for those employed, job characteristics, job satisfaction, and hours worked per week for the current/most recent job. Detailed job information on up to five employers with whom the respondent worked since last interview including start-stop dates of employment, hours worked, reason left job, up to four gaps in employment while associated with an employer, job characteristics including occupation, class of worker, rate of pay, and collective bargaining activity in setting wages, is provided. Activity of the respondent during periods when s/he was not associated with an employer or in the military (i.e., weeks not working, weeks spent looking for work, reasons not looking for work) is available, as in information on the job search behavior of those unemployed and plans to seek employment for those out of the labor force. Types and success of various job search methods used by unemployed respondents to find work have also been collected.

10. Detailed Workhistories. A week-by-week longitudinal work record of each respondent from January 1, 1978 through the most current survey date has been constructed and is available as a separate data file. These weekly data are arranged in three primary arrays: (a) an A array of the respondent's labor force/military status each week beginning in January 1978; (b) an HOUR array of the usual hours worked per week at all jobs beginning in January 1978; and (c) a DUALJOB array containing additional job numbers for respondents who work at at more than one job simultaneously in any week beginning in January 1978. The workhistory data also include information on dates of active military service, key labor force variables, and detailed information on each of up to five jobs per survey year. Key linkage variables are provided to facilitate use of this data with the main youth, geocode and child files.

11. Marital History. Information on a respondent's marital status at each survey date, changed in marital status since last interview, and month/year of each marital status changes as well as information on a respondent's spouse that has included birth/death dates, occupation, educational attainment, labor force status, religious affiliation, and for select points in time, health limitations are available. A set of constructed marital history variables are present on the supplemental fertility file described below.

12. Fertility. Fertility data include information on all pregnancies/live births, a cumulative inventory of all children reported and the residence status of all children, contraceptive methods utilized, birth expectations and wantedness information, confidential abortion reports, as well as ages at menarche and first intercourse. A supplemental set of constructed and edited fertility variables provides: (a) revisions to dates of birth, gender, and usual living arrangements for all respondents' children; (b) constructed variables such as beginning and ending dates of marriages, ages at first marriage/first birth, spacing between births and between marriage and first birth; and (c) a variable evaluating the consistency of each respondent's longitudinal fertility recorded between the 1979 and 1982 survey years.

13. Child Care. Types of child care utilized by female respondents, e.g. care by relatives, non-relatives, day care center, nursery or pre-school, self care, etc., types of child care payments incurred, and number of hours and/or days spent in child care are available for select survey years. Retrospective child care experiences and child care arrangements during the first three years of life for all children of at least one year of age were also collected.

14. Income & Assets. Income received in the past calendar year by the respondent, spouse, or other family members and more limited information in many years for opposite sex partners is available, including: (a) wages and salaries, military service, farm or own business, Social Security, pensions and annuities, and alimony/child support; (b) monthly income amounts received by the respondent and spouse from unemployment compensation, AFDC, food stamps, and other public assistance; and (c) sources of income for other family members. Asset information collected during 1985-1990 and 1992 include types of and total market value of property owned by the respondent (e.g., real estate, farm, business), the value of other assets including vehicles and savings accounts, as well as the total amount of debts owed including mortgages, back taxes and debts over $500. Data on net savings/dissavings are available beginning with the 1989 survey.

15. Health. Height, weight, presence and duration of health conditions preventing or limiting labor market activity including the specific type of health condition, causes, and part(s) of the body affected )(ICD-9 codes), type of work-related injuries or illnesses, and knowledge of AIDS are provided. Recent surveys have collected information on health care/hospitalization plans. Data on pre-natal health care, infant feeding practices, illnesses of /treatment for infants, well-baby care as well as accidents and injuries of children were collected during select survey years from female NLSY respondents.

16. Alcohol & Substance Use. Alcohol use data, collected during select survey years, include: consumption of alcohol, frequency of use, quantity consumed and whether such use has impacted on school work or job performance. Substance use data include: age at first use, extent of use of marijuana/hashish, amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine, heroin, use of such substances on the job, and the use of alcohol and cigarettes during pregnancy.

17. Illegal Activities. Self-reported participation and income from various delinquent and criminal activities such as skipping school, alcohol/marijuana use, vandalism, shoplifting, drug dealing, robbery, as well as reported arrest records and contacts with the criminal justice system were collected during the 1980 survey.

18. Attitudes & Aspirations. A collection of attitude variables, available for select survey years, includes information from the Internal-External Locus of control Scale (Rotter 1966), the Mastery Scale (Pearlin et al. 1981), the Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg 1965), the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale, and select administrations of questions on attitudes toward women and work, occupational aspirations, work commitment, knowledge of the work of work, perceived problems in getting a good job, future expectations about marriage/education/employment, responses to a series of hypothetical job offers, and the attitude of the most influential person in each respondent's life toward certain key career, occupation , residence and childbearing decisions.

19. Geographic Information. General geographic information on each respondent including county, state, region of residence at birth and at age 14, region of residence at each interview date, whether current residence is urban-rural or in a SMSA is available on the main NLSY data files. Additional geographic information is available on the restricted-release geocode data file described below.

20. Detailed Geocode Data Files. Information on state, country and SMSA/ MSA/ CMSA/ PMSA of respondent's current residence, location of most recent college attended, and select environmental variables from the County and City Data Books for county or SMSA of current residence is available as separate data files (Geocode data file) that will be released only to persons who research work is related to the National Longitudinal Surveys of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and who satisfactorily complete the BLS geocode accessing agreement procedure.

21. Geographic Proximity/Mobility Matches. A separate data file details the geographic proximity of the relatives, friends and acquaintances of female respondents interviewed during 1983-1985 and provides measures of geographic mobility for these respondents during those years.


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Last Modified Date: January 29, 2002