Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (12th-Grade Survey), 2020 (ICPSR 38156)

Version Date: Oct 26, 2021 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Richard A. Miech, University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Survey Research Center; Lloyd D. Johnston, University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Survey Research Center; Jerald G. Bachman, University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Survey Research Center; Patrick M. O'Malley, University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Survey Research Center; John E. Schulenberg, University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Survey Research Center; Megan E. Patrick, University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Survey Research Center


Version V1

Slide tabs to view more

MTF 2020 (12th Grade)

This survey of 12th-grade students is part of a series that explores changes in important values, behaviors, and lifestyle orientations of contemporary American youth. Students are randomly assigned to complete one of six questionnaires, each with a different subset of topical questions, but all containing a set of "core" questions on demographics and drug use. There are about 1,400 variables across the questionnaires. Drugs covered by this survey include tobacco, smokeless tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, hashish, prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, LSD, hallucinogens, amphetamines (stimulants), Ritalin (methylphenidate), barbiturates (tranquilizers), cocaine, crack cocaine, GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), ecstasy, methamphetamine, and heroin. Other topics include attitudes toward religion, changing roles for women, educational aspirations, self-esteem, exposure to drug education, and violence and crime (both in and out of school).

Highlights for 2020:

  • All students recorded their survey answers on tablets that the project brought to the schools, preloaded with the MTF surveys.
  • Data collection was halted prematurely on March 15, 2020 when the University of Michigan stopped all projects that involved face-to-face data collection because of COVID-19 concerns. This resulted in a 2020 sample size about 25% the size of a regular data collection.
  • Guidance for combining grades for analysis: see Appendix C of the codebook.
  • Information about potential mode effects for questions on student attitudes and beliefs when comparing previous years' paper-based survey responses to the current tablet method of collection. Please see the codebook Introduction - Survey Mode section for details.

Miech, Richard A., Johnston, Lloyd D., Bachman, Jerald G., O’Malley, Patrick M., Schulenberg, John E., and Patrick, Megan E. Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (12th-Grade Survey), 2020. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2021-10-26.

Export Citation:

  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote
United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA001411)

Census Region

Users are reminded that these data are to be used solely for statistical analysis and reporting of aggregated information and not for the investigation of specific individuals.

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

  1. This study was conducted by the Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

  2. To protect the anonymity of respondents, all variables that could be used to identify individuals have been collapsed or recoded in the public use files. These modifications should not affect analytic uses of the public use files.

  3. For 2020, a single codebook containing frequency distributions for all seven datasets is produced. The codebook contains bookmarks to signify the start of each dataset. Otherwise the PDF document is organized in similar fashion to previous years with the front section detailing information about the study's history, purpose, sampling, design, content, and then appendices with a link to publications and information on response rates.

  4. Variables omitted from the Western region questionnaires are noted in the codebook.

  5. A cross-time question index is included with the available documentation for the MTF 12th-grade data. The document is sorted by subject area and covers the time period 1976 to 2020.

  6. Frequency and percentage distributions displayed in the 2020 codebook are unweighted, rather than weighted by variable "ARCHIVE_WT" (previously named "V5") as they had been in previous years. This change was made to simplify both the production of the codebook and their interpretation by the analyst.

  7. As referenced in the codebook two new PDF documents have been included for download to help provide additional context and understanding to data users. These new documents provided by the Principal Investigators detail changes in 2020 to the questionnaires. One document is organized by form. The other document is organized by change (dropped items, added items, changes to response categories, and changes to the text of the question). Each document covers changes for both the 8th/10th grade and 12th grade data. Therefore, the exact same documents are available for download with the 8th- and 10th-grade data (ICPSR 38189).
  8. MTF does not release detailed geography codes in its public use files because of the disclosure risk it would cause. The MTF sample is drawn to generate representative samples of the four Census Bureau regions of the country (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West), but it does not generate representative samples of smaller geographic areas such as states, counties, or cities. For additional information about data that are withheld from the public use files, please see the study codebook.

  9. The MTF Principal Investigators created a series of dichotomous recodes for 10 substances for the three standard time periods (lifetime, past 12 months, and past 30 days). The substances include tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, LSD, other psychedelics, amphetamines, sedatives/barbiturates, tranquilizers, inhalants, and other narcotics. These variables have been placed at the end of the Core data file (DS1). Each variable has the same name and label as the original, but with the addition of the letter "D" at the end of the variable name and the words "(dichotomous recode)" included at the end of the variable label. This was only done for the core file.

  10. Using these new dichotomous recode variables ICPSR has created interactive maps to show the weighted response for each dichotomous variable by Census region. To create a map simply select the desired year/grade and question/variable. Then click on "Go". The resulting map will rank the regions by color. The Census region with the darkest shade will show the highest frequency of use. A frequency table is also provided. SPECIAL NOTE: Due to the recent update of the NAHDAP website the interactive maps feature is not yet available, but will be soon.
  11. For further information about Monitoring the Future please visit their web site. The site provides links to more publications, press releases, and data findings.

A total of 3,770 12th grade students completed a survey in 2020. The number of students completing each form were:

  • Core Data: 3,770
  • Form 1 Data: 640
  • Form 2 Data: 622
  • Form 3 Data: 650
  • Form 4 Data: 598
  • Form 5 Data: 617
  • Form 6 Data: 643

Beginning in 2020 all students completed the survey via electronic tablet instead of the traditional paper-and-pencil version.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, data collection was halted prematurely on March 15, 2020, resulting in a sample size that was 25% of a typical sample in regular data collection. Analyses indicated that the curtailed sample did not differ from results in previous years in terms of sociodemographics or prevalence of substances. These findings support the 2020 data as a random sample of what MTF would have collected with a full data collection.

A multistage area probability sample design was used involving three selection stages: (1) geographic areas or primary sampling units (PSUs), (2) schools (or linked groups of schools) within PSUs, and (3) students within sampled schools. Of the 72 PSUs, 8 were selected with certainty, 10 were selected with a probability of .50, and the remainder were selected using a probability based on their 2010 Census household count. Generally speaking, in schools with more than 350 seniors, a sample of seniors or classes was drawn. In schools with less than 350 seniors, all seniors were asked to participate unless logistical challenges required a sample be taken. Each school was asked to participate for two years so that each year one-half of the sample would be replaced. Schools refusing participation were replaced with similar schools in terms of geographic location, size, and type of school (e.g., public, private/Catholic, private/non-Catholic). The participation rate among schools has been between 66 and 85 percent since the inception of the study. The total sample of 12th graders was divided into 6 subsamples, each to be administered a different form of the questionnaire. "Core" drug and demographic questions were included in all questionnaire forms.

Longitudinal: Trend / Repeated Cross-section

High school seniors in the contiguous United States.


There are about 1,400 variables across the questionnaires. On average, each form consisted of 400 questions. Some questions were repeated on multiple forms and some were asked on all six forms. All of the survey questions are categorical in nature. The majority of questions fall into one of seven types of response options.

  • Yes / No
  • Marked / Not Marked
  • Agree / Disagree scale (5 point)
  • Disapproval scale (3 point)
  • Risk scale (4 point)
  • Frequency of days (6 point)
  • Frequency of use (7 point)

The Core Data file is a compilation of variables from the six questionnaire forms. Variables contained in the Core data file may not appear in all six forms.

The overall student response rate for 2020 was 79 percent.



2021-10-26 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created online analysis version with question text.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Each of the seven parts contains a weight variable, ARCHIVE_WT. They were originally varied by school but were modified to protect respondent confidentiality. Users should use the weight variable for all analyses, the results of which will differ slightly from published data tables that used original data.

OF SPECIAL NOTE: As the MTF respondents are sampled using a multi-stage sampling design, it is often desirable to incorporate the complex sample design information into analyses. However, in order to protect respondent confidentiality, the variables that represent the complex sample design of the MTF, i.e., sampling stratum and cluster, are omitted from the public use files. For researchers who wish to incorporate the unaltered weight variable and complex sample design variables into their analyses, these variables are now accessible through restricted access from NAHDAP. Please see Monitoring the Future (MTF) Restricted-Use Cross-Sectional Datasets for details.



  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.