National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) Series

Investigator(s): Center for Human Resource Research, The Ohio State University

The National Longitudinal Surveys(NLS)Series is sponsored by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and began in the mid-1960s. Over the years, supportive funding has been provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Department of Defense and Armed Services, and the National Institute of Education. The NLS is conducted by the United States Bureau of the Census and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), University of Chicago, for the Center for Human Resource Research, Ohio State University to whom BLS contracted the project. The NLS surveys are part of a longitudinal research program of the BLS which includes in-house analyses, an extramural grant program, and other special projects. They are a set of surveys each of which has gathered information at multiple points in time on the labor market experiences of five specific groups of American men and women: older men aged 45-59, mature women aged 30-44, young men aged 14-24, young women aged 14-24, and youths aged 14-21. Each of the 1960s cohorts has been surveyed 12 or more times over the years, and the Youth cohort has been surveyed yearly since 1979 when it was first added. The data permit the study of determinants of labor supply, earnings and income distribution, job search and separation, labor market inequities, and human capital investments. In 1986, with funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and a number of private foundations, the NLS series was expanded to include surveys of a group of children born to women of one of the national survey groups. During the 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1992 NLSY surveys, a battery of child cognitive-socioemotional-physiological assessments was administered to NLSY mothers and their children. Surveys of the four original cohorts have, over the years, collected two basic types of information: (1) core data on each respondent's labor market experience, education, training, income, household composition, marital status, and health limitations, and (2) supplementary cohort-specific data focusing on the particular stage of life or labor market attachment that each group was experiencing. Thus, the surveys of young people have collected data on their educational goals, high school and college experiences, high school characteristics, and occupational aspirations and expectations, as well as military service, and the surveys of women have gathered data on topics such as fertility, child care, responsibility for household tasks, care of parents, volunteer work, attitudes towards women working, and job discrimination. As the older-aged cohorts of men and women approached labor force withdrawal, surveys for these groups collected information on their retirement plans, health status, and pension benefits. In addition, specially constructed data files are available for the NLS series, such as a file that specifies the relationships among members of the four original cohorts living in the same household at the time of the initial surveys, i.e., husband-wife, mother-daughter, brother-sister, etc. The most current data for this series can be found on the NLS website.