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National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 (ICPSR 4683) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):


The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) is one of six surveys, designed by the United States Department of Labor, comprising the National Longitudinal Survey (NLS) Series. The survey was intended to be representative of United States residents, both male and female, in 1979 who were born between the years of 1957 and 1964. The NLSY79 observes the life-course experiences of young adults that had, typically, finished their schooling and were making decisions about education and training, entering the labor market, military service, marriage, and having families. The survey was conducted annually between the years of 1979 and 1994 and then biennially thereafter. The NLSY79 addresses 13 main topics including: labor market experiences, training investments, schooling, military experience, income and assets, health conditions, substance abuse and criminal behavior, geographic residence, family background, household composition, marital and fertility histories, and childcare. Between 1979 and 2002 respondents were asked about the current labor force status, whether the respondent was employed, unemployed, or out of the labor force. Respondents who were considered to be employed were asked for information regarding their occupation, industry, benefits, job satisfaction, and number of hours worked. In addition, respondents were asked about wages, length of time with current employer, and gaps in their work history. Unemployed respondents were asked about their job search behavior and plans to seek employment. Respondents were asked a series of questions relating to training investments. The NLSY79 collected data on the types of non-goverment-sponsored vocational training programs in which the respondent participated. Specifically, respondents were asked about dates of training received, form of payment for the training, whether certification or a license was obtained as a result of the training, and transferability of skills acquired various job-training programs. Respondents were also asked questions about their schooling such as current school enrollment, highest grade completed, whether they had received a high school diploma or GED equivalent, type of high school curriculum, college enrollment status, major field of study at college, and college degrees earned. Respondents were also asked about any military experience such as enlistment intentions, attitudes toward military service, dates of military service, branch of service, income, education/training received, and reasons for leaving the military or reenlisting. Respondents were also surveyed on their income sources and assets. Respondents were asked about income coming from the respondents' and their spouses' wages or salary, military service, profits from a farm or business, Social Security, pensions, alimony/child support, unemployment compensation, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and Food Stamps. They were also asked about asset holdings such as property, vehicles, and savings accounts. Respondents were asked to provide data with respect to their physical condition including height, weight, and any health condition that might prevent or inhibit labor market participation. This could include work-related injuries, for mothers, prenatal care, and overall physical activity. Respondents were queried about alcohol and substance abuse. Specifically, they were asked about the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption, use of cigarettes, and the extent of any illegal drug use (e.g. marijuana, barbiturates, cocaine, and heroin). Respondents were asked for their expectations relating to marriage, education, and employment and attitudes towards work and women, occupational aspirations, and work commitment. Respondents were also asked about residence information including residence at birth, at age 14, and current region of residence, whether current residence is rural or urban, and whether the residence is located in a metropolitan statistical area. Selected surveys also a asked a series of questions on family background including racial/ethnic identification, number of siblings, immigration/visa status, as well as background information about their parents' birthplace, education, and work experiences. They were also asked about their current household composition including the sex, age, and relationship to respondent for each person living in the respondents household at the time. Respondents were asked to give information relating to their marital and fertility histories including current marital status, changes in martial status since the previous interview, previous marriages, total number of spouses and partners. Female respondents were asked about their fertility histories including all pregnancies resulting in live births, children, contraceptive methods, birth expectations, and abortions. Finally, female respondents were asked to comment on childcare options utilized such as care given by relatives, daycare centers, nursery or preschools, costs of childcare, and number of hours the respondents' children spent in childcare.

Access Notes

  • This data collection has been deaccessioned; it is no longer distributed by ICPSR.

Study Description


Ohio State University. Center for Human Resource Research. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979. ICPSR04683-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2007-09-17. doi:10.3886/ICPSR04683.v1

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Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   attitudes, demographic characteristics, economic indicators, education, employment, family background, health, health insurance, household composition, income, job satisfaction, job search, labor (work), labor force, labor markets, military service, occupations, personal finances, reproductive history, secondary education, substance abuse, time utilization, unemployment, vocational education, wages and salaries, work experience, working hours, young adults, youths

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 1979--2002

Date of Collection:  

  • 1979--2002

Unit of Observation:   individual

Universe:   Young men and women ages 14 to 21 as of December 31, 1978 representing the civilian, noninstitutionalized population and residing in the United States.

Data Types:   survey data

Data Collection Notes:

The data belonging to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 was previously archived as part of the National Longitudinal Surveys of Labor Market Experiences, 1966-1992 (ICPSR 7610). In efforts 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, 1997 (ICPSR 3959), National Longitudinal Survey of Older Men, 1966-1990 (ICPSR 4675), National Longitudinal Survey of Young Men, 1967-1981 (ICPSR 4678), National Longitudinal Survey of Young Women, 1968 (ICPSR 4680), and National Longitudinal Survey of Mature Women, 1967 (ICPSR 4681).

The original National Longitudinal Surveys of Labor Market Experiences data and documentation files remain available in their original form. Please see ICPSR study 7610.

Please consult the codebook for important errata for the NLS Youth 1979 cohort.

Additional information pertaining to the NLS Youth 1979 cohort can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/nls/nlsy79.htm.


Sample:   A total of 12,686 youth were selected from the universe of potential respondents during household screenings and deemed eligible respondents. In addition, there was a supplemental sample of 5,295 youth designed to oversample civilian Hispanic, Black, and economically disadvantaged non-Black and non-Hispanic youths. There was also a military sample of 1,280 designed to represent the population born between January 1, 1957, and December 31, 1961, and enlisted in one of the four branches of the active military forces as of September 30, 1978.

Mode of Data Collection:   computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI), face-to-face interview, paper and pencil interview (PAPI), telephone interview

Response Rates:   The initial 1979 survey had 11,406 respondents yielding a response rate of approximately 89 percent.


Original ICPSR Release:  

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