Frequently Asked Questions

Find some answers to common questions below: 

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 policymakers 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 policymakers are never provided with your name, address, phone number, Social Security number, or other information that could reveal your personal identity. For more information, please see our web page about Protecting Your Privacy.

Why do I have to give you what seems to be the very same information every year?

Some of the questions we ask are the same every round, 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?

No, you can’t complete the survey online, but we continue to explore ways to permit online participation in the future for people who would prefer providing their information in that way.

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 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 so unique is the range of topics that we ask—including topics that may be very personal. The NLSY97 is one of the few surveys available to researchers and policy makers that collect an extensive amount of information over a number of years. To learn more about this research, visit our NLSY97 In the News and NLSY97 Research pages on the site 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 Zipcode 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 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If authorized, these researchers must sign a written agreement making them official agents of the U.S. 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 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, non-profit 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 is used, please visit our NLSY97 News and Research pages of the site.

How is the information collected?

As all of you know from experience, we collect your information during an in-person interview with the use of a lap top 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 for 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 policymakers 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 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 Institute of Heath and Department of Justice, also contribute funding to the survey. The Bureau contracts out the work of the survey to two survey research organizations: The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, and The Center for Human Resource Research (CHRR) 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.