About the Study

The NLSY97 consists of a nationally representative sample of approximately 9,000 youths who were 12 to 16 years old as of December 31, 1996. Round 1 of the survey took place in 1997. In that round, both the eligible youth and one of that youth's parents received hour-long personal interviews. Youths continue to be interviewed on an annual basis.

Introduction to the Sample

The respondents of the NLSY97 were born between 1980 and 1984. At the time of first interview, respondents' ages ranged from 12 to 18. The respondents were 30 to 34 at the time of their Round 16 interviews (Round 16 is the most recent data release, fielded in 2013-2014). 8,984 individuals initially interviewed in round 1.

Types of Information Gathered in the Survey

  • Employment
  • Education, Training & Achievement Scores
  • Household, Geography & Contextual Variables
  • Parents, Family Process & Childhood
  • Dating, Marriage & Cohabitation; Sexual Activity, Pregnancy & Fertility; Children
  • Income, Assets & Program Participation
  • Health: Conditions & Practices
  • Attitudes, Expectations, Non-Cognitive Tests, Activities
  • Crime & Substance Use

Our Project Affiliates

  • Center for Human Resource Research, Ohio State University
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics

Other Surveys in the NLS Family

The NLSY97 is part of a broader family of surveys. The National Longitudinal Surveys program began in the mid-1960s with surveys of four groups: Older Men, Mature Women, Young Men, and Young Women. These groups were chosen because each faced important labor market decisions that were of special concern to policymakers at the time. Although the initial plan called for only a 5-year period of interviewing, these surveys were so successful and widely used that the U.S. Department of Labor decided to continue them for many more years.

The success of these surveys led to the creation of a new survey of young people in the late 1970s. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979—or NLSY79 for short—includes people who were born in the years 1957 to 1964 and living in the U.S. when the survey began in 1979. This new survey was specifically designed to help policymakers evaluate youth employment and training programs, but over time has expanded to cover topics as diverse as health, marriage, and retirement planning.

In 1986, another survey began of the children born to women in the NLSY79 sample. The survey includes a variety of cognitive, social, emotional, and physiological assessments. As children age, they are asked questions about family, friends, jobs, health and work expectations. By the mid 1990s, the NLSY79 was still going strong but could no longer help researchers and policymakers understand the issues affecting young people of that time.

That’s where you came in.

You agreed to participate in the NLSY97 to speak for your generation and help researchers and policymakers understand what you have gone through in school, on the job, and with your family and friends. We thank you for your dedication and continued participation. To learn more about all the research conducted using the National Longitudinal Surveys, see our bibliography and read recent articles and research done using NLSY97 data. You can also watch videos that showcase the impact of your participation.