Introduction

National Longitudinal Survey of Youth - 1979 Cohort

The NLSY79 Sample: An Introduction

Official Title. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), part of the National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) program

Age of cohort. Born between 1957 and 1964. At the time of first interview, respondents' ages ranged from 14 to 22. The respondents were 47 to 56 at the time of their 2012 interviews

Number of respondents in survey. 12,686 individuals initially interviewed in 1979.

Gender. 6,403 (50%) males and 6,283 (50%) females in initial survey

Race/ Ethnicity (in initial survey)

  • Non-black/non-Hispanic: 7,510
  • Black: 3,174
  • Hispanic or Latino: 2,002

Subsample design. Three subsamples comprise the NLSY79 cohort (see variable denoted as R01736 in Web Investigator). With a few exceptions, all members of the cross-sectional sample have been eligible for interview during each round of the NLSY79.

  • a cross-sectional sample of 6,111 respondents designed to represent the noninstitutionalized civilian segment of people living in the United States in 1979 and born between January 1, 1957, and December 31, 1964 (ages 14-21 as of December 31, 1978)
  • a supplemental sample of 5,295 civilian Hispanic or Latino, black, and economically disadvantaged nonblack/non-Hispanic respondents living in the United States in 1979 and born between January 1, 1957, and December 31, 1964
  • a sample of 1,280 respondents designed to represent the population serving in one of the four branches of the U.S. military as of September 30, 1978, and born between January 1, 1957, and December 31, 1961 (ages 17-21 as of December 31, 1978)

Following the 1984 interview, 1,079 members of the military sample were no longer eligible for interview; 201 respondents randomly selected from the military sample remained in the survey.  Following the 1990 interview, none of the 1,643 members of the economically disadvantaged, nonblack/non-Hispanic sample were eligible for interview.

Important Information

Although the entire economically disadvantaged, nonblack/non-Hispanic subsample was dropped following the 1990 survey, the 'Reason for Noninterview' variable has only 1,621 respondents listed as "supplemental poor white sample dropped." The remaining 22 respondents died prior to the dropping of the subsample. These individuals continue to be classified as "deceased." For further information, refer to the "Reasons for Noninterview" section.

Types of information gathered in survey

  • Labor market behavior
  • Educational experiences (high school, college, training)
  • Family background (including data collected from parent in round 1)
  • Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (measures knowledge and skills including reading and mathematics)
  • High school information received from respondents' schools and from respondents' school transcripts
  • Government program participation
  • Family life (marital status, fertility, and child care)
  • Health issues
  • Assets and income

Table 1. NLSY79 Sample Sizes by Subsample, Race/Ethnicity & Gender

.
Total
Sample
Cross-Sectional Sample
Supplemental Sample
Military Sample
Total
Nonblack/ non-Hispanic
Black
Hispanic or Latino
Total
Poor nonblack/ non-Hispanic
Black
Hispanic or Latino
Total
Nonblack/ non-Hispanic
Black
Hispanic or Latino
1979
Male
6403
3003
2439
346
218
2576
742
1105
729
824
609
162
53
Female
6283
3108
2477
405
226
2719
901
1067
751
456
342
89
25
Total
12686
6111
4916
751
444
5295
1643
2172
1480
1280
951
251
78
1984
Male
6055
2839
2303
329
207
2442
699
1055
688
774
575
151
48
Female
6014
2975
2365
393
217
2598
851
1034
713
441
331
86
24
Total
12069
5814
4668
722
424
5040
1550
2089
1401
1215
906
237
72
1990
Male
5112
2664
2157
318
189
2280
664
979
637
168
70
68
30
Female
5324
2834
2271
365
198
2475
819
984
672
15
7
5
3
Total
10436
5498
4428
683
387
4755
1483
1963
1309
183
77
73
33
1994
Male
4411
2648
2150
310
188
1599
--
973
626
164
68
62
34
Female
4480
2809
2243
363
203
1657
--
987
670
14
7
5
2
Total
8891
5457
4393
673
391
3256
--
1960
1296
178
75
67
36
1998
Male
4100
2459
2007
289
163
1480
--
883
597
161
66
63
32
Female
4299
2700
2161
346
193
1585
--
951
634
14
6
5
3
Total
8399
5159
4168
635
356
3065
--
1834
1231
175
72
68
35
2000
Male
3920
2356
1926
272
158
1412
--
847
565
152
64
61
27
Female
4113
2593
2065
343
185
1509
--
912
597
11
6
3
2
Total
8033
4949
3991
615
343
2921
--
1759
1162
163
70
64
29
2002
Male
3769
2270
1852
268
150
1353
--
828
524
147
61
60
26
Female
3955
2505
1999
328
178
1440
--
879
561
10
6
3
1
Total
7724
4775
3851
596
328
2792
--
1707
1085
157
67
63
27
2004
Male
3738
2201
1800
249
152
1330
--
808
522
146
63
58
25
Female
3984
2485
1982
326
177
1488
--
901
587
11
7
3
1
Total
7661
4686
3862
575
329
2818
--
1709
1109
157
70
61
26
2006
Male
3738
2186
1764
273
149
1401
--
839
562
151
63
62
26
Female
3916
2444
1950
320
174
1461
--
883
578
11
6
4
1
Total
7654
4630
3714
593
323
2862
--
1722
1140
162
69
66
27
                         
Male 3669 2179 1766   271 142  1346 --  817  529  144 62 57 25
Female 3896  2423 1929 323 171 1462 --  886  576 11 5 4  2
Total 7565 4602 3695 594 313 2808 --  1703 1105 155  67 61 27
2012                          
Male 3524  2091  1689  259 143 1296 --    791 505 137 60  51 26
Female 3777 2331  1851  317  163 1436 --    868 568 10 4 4  2
Total 7301 4422  3540  576  306  2732 --    1659 1073  147 64 55 28

Funding Sources for the NLSY79

Funding to collect data on labor market experiences, human capital investments such as education and training, and information that affects or is affected by labor market behaviors is through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Throughout the survey, various agencies have funded special sets of questions.  Funding has been provided by several agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Justice.  Examples of other topical areas include:

  1. Military participation-Support from the Department of Defense made possible the 1979-84 interviews of 1,280 youth enlisted in the military. 
  2. Vocational aptitude-The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a study which was jointly sponsored by the Departments of Defense and Labor, was administered to the civilian and military youth samples in 1980.  
  3. High school performance-Beginning in 1979, a five-year cooperative effort of the National Center for Research in Vocational Education and The Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research resulted in a survey of the high schools of civilian NLSY79 respondents and the collection of detailed transcript information on potential high school graduates.
  4. Time-use-In 1981, the National Institute of Education sponsored a set of time-use questions.
  5. Alcohol and substance use-Funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse has made possible expanded sets of alcohol and substance use questions.  
  6. Department of Justice-A self-report supplement to the 1980 survey collected data on the respondent's participation in and income from various delinquent and criminal activities. 

NLSY79 Children

The child sample includes children born to female NLSY79 respondents. The child sample began in 1986, and the expanded mother-child data collection has occurred biennially since then. 

  • The number of children born to interviewed mothers has increased from 5,255 in 1986 to 8,099 in 2010. 
  • Interviews were completed during 2010 with 6,997 children (including 6,102 young adult children), or 86.4 percent of children born to mothers interviewed in that survey round.  
  • Starting with the 1994 survey, the children are treated as two separate groups. 
  • The first includes children who were under age 15 (as of December 31 of the survey year).  These children completed one or more of the assessment instruments, and information about each child is obtained from the child's mother. 
  • The second group comprises NLSY79 children who are at least 15 years of age by the end of the survey's calendar year.  These "Young Adults," most of whom were assessed during earlier child surveys, are administered a separate NLSY79-style questionnaire that gathers information on a wide range of topics.