Accessing Data

Public-Use Data

NLS public-use data for each cohort are available at no cost via the Investigator, an online search and extraction site that enables you to review NLS variables and create your own data sets.

The Investigator User's Guide describes how to use this website.

An available tutorial also teaches how to search for variables in the Investigator.

NLSY Geocode Data

NLSY79, NLSY79 Young Adult, and NLSY97 confidential geocode data include the respondent's state, county and MSA of residence and codes identifying colleges attended. These files are provided on a CD, along with a respondent ID variable that facilitates linking to the public use data. More detail about the variables on the geocode data files is available in the NLSY79 Geocode Codebook Supplement and the NLSY97 Geocode Codebook Supplement.

To protect the confidentiality of respondents, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only grants access to geocode files for researchers in the United States who agree in writing to adhere to the BLS confidentiality policy and whose projects further the mission of BLS and the NLS program to conduct sound, legitimate research in the social sciences. Applications from abroad cannot be accepted. Applicants must provide a clear statement of their research methodology and objectives and explain how the geocode data are necessary to meet those objectives. Researchers who are granted access to NLS geocode files may use them at their own facilities, provided that the facilities meet BLS security requirements (more detail here).

The geocode application document is available on the BLS website.

NLSY Restricted-Use Zip Code and Census Tract Data

For researchers who want to measure smaller geographic areas, the NLSY79 and NLSY97 surveys have restricted-use zip code and Census tract files. These files also include all of the geocode data.

These confidential files are available for use only at the BLS National Office in Washington, DC, on statistical research projects approved by BLS. Access to data is subject to the availability of space and resources at BLS. Information about applying to use the zip code and Census tract data is available on the BLS website.

NLSY97 Restricted-Use School Survey Data

The 1996 NLSY97 School Survey contains all public and private schools with a 12th grade in the 147 nationally representative primary sampling units (PSUs) used for the NSLY97 sample construction. School characteristics were specifically targeted to gain information on school-to-work programs. The 2000 NLSY97 School Survey is a sample of all schools in the original 1996 NLSY97 school survey. In addition, vocational education school in the PSUs are included in the sample. Where NLSY97 respondents have moved to secondary schools with a 12th grade outside the 147 PSUs, those schools also are included. The School Survey section of the NLSY97 Topical Guide provides details about sample sizes and the types of information available. [ADD LINK WHEN PAGE IS ACTIVE]

Like zip code and Census tract information, the school survey files are available for use only at the BLS National Office in Washington, DC, on statistical research projects approved by BLS. Access to data is subject to the availability of space and resources at BLS. Information about applying to use the school survey data is available on the BLS website.

NLSW and NLSM Restricted-Use Geographic Variables

Because data collection for the Orignal Cohorts was performed by the Census Bureau, geographic data are handled differently than the NLSY cohorts. The only geographic indicator available on the public data set is South/nonSouth region of residence. All other geographic variables are restricted to access at Census Research Data Centers that have been established in several locations around the country.

For the NLS of Older Men and the NLS of Young Men, variables are available on the State and county of residence in each round of the surveys. A variable also is available on the Primary Sampling Unit from which the samples were selected in the first round of the surveys in 1966.

For the NLS of Mature Women and the NLS of Young Women, many more geographic variables are available. These variables include State, county, census tract and block, and latitude and longitude of residence in each round of the surveys. Variables are available on whether a respondent moved to a different address from one round of the survey to the next. A variable also is available on the Primary Sampling Unit from which the samples were selected in the first round of the surveys in 1967 (Mature Women) and 1968 (Young Women). In addition, variables are available on the names and locations of colleges and universities that respondents attended.
The process established by BLS and the Census Bureau to request access to geographic variables from the NLS original cohorts includes two main steps:

  1. Researchers must send a description of the project to BLS at NLS_info@bls.gov. The proposal should describe clearly and concisely the objectives of the project, the research hypotheses and methodology, the geographic information needed for the project, and the way in which that geographic information will be used. BLS staff will review and comment on the proposal and possibly ask follow-up questions. When BLS staff has all the information it feels is necessary, it will recommend whether to approve the project.
  2. If BLS approves the project, BLS will notify the researcher and the Census Bureau. The researcher then can submit a formal proposal to the Census Bureau's Center for Economic Studies (CES), which oversees the Research Data Centers. Interested researchers should consult the CES web site at www.ces.census.gov for proposal guidelines and information on the locations of Research Data Centers. Researchers also should work closely with CES staff and the administrator of the appropriate Research Data Center to develop the proposal adequately.