Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (8th- and 10th-Grade Surveys), 2021 (ICPSR 38502)

Version Date: Oct 31, 2022 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 2021 (8th/10th Grade)

These surveys of 8th- and 10th-grade students are part of a series that explores changes in important values, behaviors, and lifestyle orientations of contemporary American youth. Students in each grade are randomly assigned to complete one of four questionnaires, each with a different subset of topical questions but containing a set of "core" questions on demographics and drug use. There are more than 450 variables across the questionnaires. Drugs covered by this survey include amphetamines (stimulants), barbiturates (tranquilizers), other prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, tobacco, smokeless tobacco, alcohol, inhalants, steroids, marijuana, hashish, LSD, hallucinogens, cocaine, crack, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and injectable drugs such as heroin.

Highlights for 2021:

  • Data collection resumed in 2021, with a change to all web-based surveys.
  • Students completed the surveys on their personal or school-provided device.
  • Non-survey variables have been changed or added to facilitate analyses. For details, please see the codebook section "MTF Variable Information - Non-survey variables included in the data files - Survey mode and design variables for 2021".
  • Information about "screen break" issues, where series of questions were originally presented differently in the web-based survey as compared to the 2019/2020 tablet surveys. Please see the codebook and Appendix D 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 (8th- and 10th-Grade Surveys), 2021. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2022-10-31.

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

2021-01-01 -- 2021-12-31
2021-03-01 -- 2021-05-31 (Spring 2021)
  1. This study was conducted by the Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

  2. Subsequent to a significant change made in 2012, the data files from the two grades and four forms are merged to create a single file. The variables V3 and V501 designate the form number and grade, respectively. The end of each variable label lists the form(s) on which the question appeared. The missing value (-8) is used to distinguish those cases where the question corresponding to a given variable was not asked on a particular form.
  3. 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 are noted in the codebook. They should not affect analytic uses of the public use files.

  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 8th- and 10th-grade data. The document is sorted by subject area and covers the time period 1991 to 2021.

  6. Frequency and percentage distributions displayed in the 2021 codebook are unweighted, rather than weighted 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 PDF documents have been included for download to help provide additional context and understanding to data users. These documents provided by the Principal Investigators detail changes in 2021 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 12th grade data (ICPSR 38503).
  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. 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 23,238 students completed a survey in 2021. There were 11,446 8th graders and 11,792 10th graders. The number of students completing each form were:

  • Form 1: 7,540
  • Form 2: 7,792
  • Form 3: 3,939
  • Form 4: 3,967

The split is approximately equal between forms completed by 8th graders and 10th graders.

In 2021, data collection of the full nationally-representative samples resumed, with some changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the sampling procedures remained consistent, survey administrations were adapted for hybrid teaching environments - remote and in-class learning. The MTF questionnaires were converted to web-based surveys. Students were provided a link to the survey, and the surveys could be completed on their own device or one provided by the school at home or in the classroom.

Halfway through the 2021 survey administration, it was discovered that parts of some questions were organized differently for the 2021 web survey than for the 2019 tablet survey, i.e. sets of questions appeared on different "screens" when comparing the web and tablet surveys. The web surveys were reprogrammed to match the "screen breaks" in the 2019 tablet surveys. Please refer to Appendix D in the codebook for impacted variables.

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 students in the grade, a sample of students or classes was drawn. In schools with fewer than 350 students in a grade, all students were asked to participate unless logistical challenges required a sample be taken. For the 8th-grade survey, schools with fewer than 20 8th graders were generally excluded from the sample. For the 10th-grade survey, schools with fewer than 25 10th graders were excluded, with very few exceptions. 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 8th and 10th grade schools has been between 78 and 91 percent since the inception of the study.

Longitudinal: Trend / Repeated Cross-section

Enrolled 8th- and 10th-grade students in the contiguous United States.


The downloadable data file contains a total of 696 variables. The original file provided by the Principal Investigators contained 695 variables (654 survey questions, 12 administrative variables, and 29 recoded variables). The Principal Investigators created the 29 recoded variables to aid in analysis and utility.

Not all of the 654 survey questions were asked on each form. There are 181 variables (27 percent) that are common among all 4 forms. Each variable label contains a notation of which forms asked that particular question. On average each form asked approximately 365 questions.

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 student response rates for the 2021 8th- and 10th-grade surveys were 82 percent and 78 percent, respectively.



2022-10-31 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.

The file contains a weight variable, V5. It originally varied by school but was 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.