School & Transcript Surveys

School & Transcript Surveys


Important Information About Using School and Transcript Surveys Data

Although the survey of schools and the transcript data collections were conducted as a single fielding effort, the eligible universes were slightly different (NORC 1980).  Transcript data are not available for the following NLSY79 respondents:

  • those considered out-of-scope either because they were members of the military sample (1280), because they were under age 17 (724) or because they were enrolled in foreign schools (175)
  • those for whom release forms were not available (378)
  • 1,341 respondents for whom data are not available for some other reason

Separately administered surveys collected information from the high schools attended by respondents in the NLSY79 cohort. This included special transcript data collections that gathered, from the high school records of respondents, detailed information on courses taken, grades, and credit received. 

NLSY79 High School Survey

A separate mail survey of the schools attended by civilian NLSY79 respondents was conducted during 1980.  Schools eligible for survey were U.S. schools attended by civilian respondents who had both been interviewed in 1979 and completed the 1979 "School and Record Information Release Form."  A follow-up release form, the "Student Release/Locating Form," was administered by Profile of American Youth examiners during the summer of 1980--2,200 forms were collected.  Designed to supplement both subjective respondent information on educational experiences collected during the main surveys and the transcript data collections described below, the school survey gathered information on:

  • each school's total enrollment
  • type of grading system
  • number of books in the school library
  • vocational/technical course offerings
  • dropout rate
  • ethnic/racial composition of students and faculty
  • percent of economically disadvantaged students
  • characteristics/qualifications of the staff
  • percentage average daily attendance

Also collected was respondent-specific information for the school surveyed including:

  • month/year last enrolled
  • reason not enrolled
  • highest grade attended
  • whether the respondent had participated in remedial English, remedial mathematics, English as a second language, or bilingual education classes

Scores from intelligence and aptitude tests administered to the youth during his or her schooling were also collected.  Table 1 in the Aptitude, Achievement & Intelligence Scores" section of this guide presents the names of the tests and the numbers of respondents for whom scores are available.

NLSY79 Transcript Surveys

During 1980-83, transcript information was collected for 8,778 civilian NLSY79 respondents who were 17 years of age or older and who were expected to complete high school within the United States. The types of information gathered for each of up to 64 courses included:

  • grade level at which the course was taken
  • a code for the high school course
  • the final or computed grade for that course
  • the source of the final grade
  • the credits received

Rumberger and Daymont (1982) review the types of academic and vocational courses reported during the initial transcript fielding effort.

Additional information collected from each school for each surveyed respondent included:

  • number of days the respondent was absent from school in each of the high school grades attended
  • the respondent's rank in class for the last year attended
  • number of students in the respondent's class for the last year attended
  • dates (month/year) last enrolled at this school
  • reason left this school

Be aware that these data have high nonresponse rates.  In some cases, individual items are only available for small numbers of youth.

Summary variables include the final transcript disposition status, the year in which these transcript data were collected, and an error flag for these transcript data.  Scores (math and verbal) from standardized tests collected during this special survey are discussed in the Aptitude, Achievement & Intelligence Scores section of this guide.  Table 1 depicts fielding periods, target samples, and the number of eligible respondents for each of the transcript fielding efforts. 

Table 1. NLSY79 Transcript Data Collection, Rounds, 1980-83

Round Fielding Period Target Sample # of Eligible Respondents # for Whom Transcript Data Collected 1
Round I April-October 1980 Rs 17 years of age or older as of the 1979 interview 8420 5825
Round II September-December 1981 Rs born in 1963, that is, age 17 as of January 1981, plus Round I Rs with less than eight semesters coursework and still enrolled 2376 1927
Round III September-December 1983 Rs born in 1964 plus Rs born before 1964 with less than eight semesters coursework supplied during Rounds I & II 1576 1258
1 Some amount of information was collected for 8951 respondents.

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: School surveys have been conducted for children born to female NLSY79 respondents, NLSY97 respondents, and members of the Young Women and the Young Men cohorts.  These surveys have recorded information on the school's total enrollment, number of books in the school library, qualifications of the staff, and ethnic/racial composition of the faculty and students.  Transcript surveys have been conducted for the NLSY97 and have included information on course subject matter, enrollment dates, and grades earned.   For more precise details about the content of each survey, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide using the tabs above for more information.


National Center for Research in Vocational Education and Center for Human Resource Research.  NLSY High School Transcript Survey: Overview and Documentation.  Columbus, OH:  CHRR, The Ohio State University.

NORC.  "The School and Transcript Survey:  Technical Report."  Chicago:  NORC, University of Chicago, 1980.

NORC.  "Transcripts II:  Technical Report."  Chicago:  NORC, University of Chicago, 1982.

NORC.  "Transcripts III:  Technical Report."  Chicago:  NORC, University of Chicago, 1984.

Rumberger, Russell and Daymont, Thomas N.  "The Effects of High School Curriculum on Labor Market Success."  In Pathways to the Future, Volume II.  A Final Report on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Labor Market Experience in 1980.  Michael E. Borus, ed.  Columbus, OH:  CHRR, The Ohio State University, 1982.

Survey Instruments and Documentation This information was collected using the "School Questionnaire" and the "Student's School Record Information" forms, copies of which appear in the NLSY High School Transcript Survey: Overview and Documentation.  This document, a composite of the NLSY79 round-specific technical documentation prepared by NORC (1980, 1982, 1984), also provides background information on the administration of this survey, a discussion of data quality and consistency issues, a copy of the "Transcript Coding Sheet," and a listing of course codes.
Areas of Interest The 96 variables from the school survey are labeled as 1979 raw variables and can be found in the "School Survey" area of interest on the main data set.  Transcript data from all years are labeled as 1981 created variables and can be found within the "Transcript Survey" area of interest.  The absenteeism/rank/enrollment information collected during the transcript survey is located in the "Misc. 1981" area of interest.