Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (12th-Grade Survey), 2021 (ICPSR 38503)

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


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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), Quaaludes (methaqualone), barbiturates (tranquilizers), cocaine, crack cocaine, GHB (gamma hydroxy butyrate), 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 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.
  • For 12th grade: two additional changes to the survey presentation. Please see the codebook section "MTF Variable Information - Non-survey variables included in the data files", and respective appendices for details.
  • Introduction of randomized blocks of questions presented to students. Please see Appendix E.
  • Test of presentation of items in the substance use consequences section on form 3. Please see Appendix F.
  • Additional information is documented in the MTFQchanges2021byForm.pdf and MTFQchanges2021byType.pdf files available for download.

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), 2021. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2022-10-31.

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

  4. 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 2021.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 8th/10th grade data (ICPSR 38502).
  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. For further information about Monitoring the Future please visit their website. The site provides links to more publications, press releases, and data findings.

A total of 9,022 students completed a survey in 2021. The number of students completing each form were:

  • Form 1: 1,498
  • Form 2: 1,547
  • Form 3: 1,477
  • Form 4: 1,519
  • Form 5: 1,481
  • Form 6: 1,500

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 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 2021 was 69 percent.



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.

Each of the seven parts contains a weight variable, ARCHIVE_WT. The weights 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.



  • 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.