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National Longitudinal Surveys

Older and Younger Men Data Overview

The National Longitudinal Survey of Older and Younger Men (NLSM) started in the mid-1960s because the U.S. Department of Labor was interested in studying the employment patterns of two groups of men. Respondents to the NLS of Older Men were in their 40s and early 50s who were making decisions about the timing and extent of their labor force withdrawal and were planning for retirement. Surveys were conducted annually for this group from 1966-1969.  After that, they were interviewed three years out of every five until 1983. In 1990, a final interview was conducted with both living Older Men respondents and widows or other family members of deceased respondents.  The NLS of Young Men comprised men in their teens and early 20s, who were completing school and making decisions about pursuing additional training or schooling, entering the workforce, or joining the military.  Young Men respondents were surveyed annually between 1966-1971. After that, they were interviewed three years out of every five through the final 1981 survey year.  Public use data are available on the NLS Investigator

Topical Guide to the Data

The topical guide presents detailed information on major subject areas and variables in the NLSM survey.  The Asterisk Tables provide summary tables of variables selected from Round 1 to the latest round.  Below are the topics gathered in the survey.

Introduction to the Sample

The U.S. Census Bureau established the two cohorts of men through two household screenings. From the first household screening in early 1966, 5,518 Older Men ages 45 to 59 as of April 1, 1966, were designated for interview. Following a second screening in September 1966, 5,713 Young Men ages 14 to 24 as of April 1, 1966, were selected for interview.  Each sample group served to represent the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of men in the same age group residing in the United States at the time the samples were selected. To meet the survey requirement of providing separate, statistically reliable estimates for black Americans, blacks were to be represented in the sample at twice their expected rate in the population.  

Both of the men’s cohorts were first interviewed during 1966. Of the 5,518 Older Men identified during the household screenings, 5,020 (91 percent) participated in the 1966 survey.  For the last fielding period in 1990, a total of 2,092 men (41.7 percent) from Round 1 sample were interviewed.  Of the 5,713 Young Men designated for interview, 5,225 (91 percent) completed the initial interview in 1966.  Approximately 65 percent (3,398 men) of Round 1 sample were interviewed in the last fielding period in 1981.  Learn more about the Sample Design and Screening ProcessInterview Methods, and Retention and Reason for Non_interview.

Using and Understanding the Data

Information on survey instruments, variable types, the interviewing process, item nonresponse, sample weights and design effects, data documentation, and how to access the data are available on the NLS Original Cohorts User Guides and Documentation section.

Other Documentation

Accessing Data

View Accessing Data for detailed information on accessing the NLSM public-use and the confidential files. The public-use data are available on the Investigator.  


Last Modified Date: April 28, 2020