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National Longitudinal Survey of Older Men, 1966-1990 (ICPSR 4675) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):


The National Longitudinal Survey of Older Men is one of six surveys, designed by the United States Department of Labor, comprising the National Longitudinal Survey (NLS) Series. The original purpose of the survey was to study employment patterns among men in their 40s and 50s who were on the verge of making decisions about the timing and extent of their withdrawal from the labor force and their plans for retirement. The survey was first administered to 5,020 respondents by interviewers from the United States Census Bureau in 1966. The survey was repeated a further 12 times between the years of 1967 and 1983. An additional version of the survey was completed by living respondents or by the widows or other family members of deceased respondents in 1990, and afterward it was discontinued. The survey queried respondents on 14 main subjects: labor market experiences, work-related discrimination, training investments, schooling information, military experiences, retirement plans and experiences, volunteer work and leisure-time activities, income and assets, physical well-being, health care and health insurance, alcohol and cigarette use, attitudes, aspirations, and psychological well-being. Also collected were geographic and environmental data, demographic and family background data, marital history, and number of children and dependents. An important portion of the survey was dedicated to the respondent's labor market experiences. Respondents were asked to provide information regarding their occupation, their working class, hours worked per week, rate of pay, and attitude toward their current job. Respondents were also asked about a variety of job-related activities including shift worked, union membership, length of commute, tenure, employment benefits, and eligibility for retirement benefits. Respondents who were unemployed or temporarily out of the labor force were asked about their plans for seeking employment, number of weeks spent looking for work, number of weeks spent out of the labor force, and reasons for not seeking employment. Respondents were also asked about work-related discrimination. Specifically, there were questions aimed at determining whether the respondent had ever experienced discrimination based on age, race, religion, or gender. Respondents also were asked about training experiences. The survey included questions about vocational training completed in high school, enrollment in business or technical training programs, armed forces training programs, and other types of apprenticeships and training programs in which the respondent had participated upon completion of his regular schooling. Additional questions regarding training courses or educational programs completed on the job were also included. Respondents were asked to provide information on their educational status and attainment including highest grade completed, the last year the respondents attended college, whether they earned a degree, and the highest college degree attained. The data also contain information on the respondents' military service record, general periods of service, start and stop dates for periods of active duty, and income from armed forces pension plans. Retirement was another major theme addressed by the survey. Respondents were asked about retirement plans and expectations such as what age they expected to retire, what sorts of activities they planned to be involved with after retiring, eligibility for Social Security benefits, and expected income during retirement. Some surveys asked respondents what sorts of leisure activities they had participated in during the previous year. There were also questions regarding family assets and debts. Specifically, respondents were asked whether they or their spouses owned their own homes, other real estate, or automobiles, and the total worth of those assets. Respondents were also asked about other assets such as savings accounts, United States savings bonds, other bonds, stocks, and any personal loans. Respondents were asked to rate their overall health condition and their general satisfaction with their health. In addition, respondents were asked if they had experienced any of a variety of health-related problems including pain, fatigue, weakness, fainting spells, anxiety or depression, or shortness of breath. Alcohol and cigarette consumption during the past 12 months was also covered. The survey included a series of questions targeting respondents' attitudes, aspirations, and overall psychological well-being. Several geographic variables were included in the data, specifically place of residence including Census division, South or non-South differentiation, and residence in a metropolitan statistical area. Other geographic variables include data on the respondents' previous places of residence as well as characteristics about the size of the labor force and unemployment rates for their current residence. In addition, there are several demographic variables including the respondents' race, nationality, date of birth, birthplace, and parents' educational and life status. There are also variables relating to marital status, children, and dependents. They include current marital status, dates, duration, and reason for the end of previous marriages, total number of children, number of children living at home, ages of children, dates of birth, and gender of children.

Access Notes

Study Description


Ohio State University. Center for Human Resource Research. National Longitudinal Survey of Older Men, 1966-1990. ICPSR04675-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2007-05-09. doi:10.3886/ICPSR04675.v1

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Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   compensation, earned degrees, education, educational programs, employment, employment discrimination, financial assets, health, health care, health insurance, health problems, higher education, industry, job descriptions, job tenure, job training, leisure, military service, occupations, older workers, pensions, psychological wellbeing, retirement planning, unemployment, union membership, vocational education, volunteers, work attitudes, working hours

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 1966--1990

Date of Collection:  

  • 1966--1990

Unit of Observation:   individual

Universe:   Men aged 45 to 59 as of April 1, 1966, representing the civilian, noninstitutionalized population and residing in the United States.

Data Types:   survey data

Data Collection Notes:

The data in this collection was previously archived as part of the NATIONAL LONGITUDINAL SURVEYS OF LABOR MARKET EXPERIENCES, 1966-1992 (ICPSR 7610). In an effort to make the National Longitudinal Survey (NLS) Series data more usable, the six cohorts comprising the NLS have been reorganized so that data and documentation for each study can now be found under the following ICPSR study titles: NATIONAL LONGITUDINAL SURVEY OF YOUTH, 1979 (ICPSR 4683), NATIONAL LONGITUDINAL SURVEY OF YOUTH, 1997-2001 (ICPSR 3959), NATIONAL LONGITUDINAL SURVEY OF YOUNG MEN, 1966-1981 (ICPSR 4678), NATIONAL LONGITUDINAL SURVEY OF MATURE WOMEN, 1967 (ICPSR 4681), NATIONAL LONGITUDINAL SURVEY OF YOUNG WOMEN, 1968 (ICPSR 4680).

The original NATIONAL LONGITUDINAL SURVEYS OF LABOR MARKET EXPERIENCES (ICPSR 7610) data and documentation files remain available in their original form.

Please consult the codebook for important errata for the NLS Older Men cohort.

Additional information pertaining to the NLS Older Men cohort can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/nls/oldyoungmen.htm.


Sample:   A total of 5,518 older men were selected from the universe of potential respondents during household screenings, and were deemed eligible respondents

Mode of Data Collection:   face-to-face interview, telephone interview, mail questionnaire, paper and pencil interview (PAPI)

Response Rates:   Of the 5,518 older men identified, 5,020 (approximately 91 percent) participated in the 1966 survey.


Original ICPSR Release:  

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