The NLSY97 Sample: An Introduction

The NLSY97 Sample: An Introduction

Official Title: National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), part of the National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) program.

Age of cohort: Born between 1980 and 1984. At the time of first interview, respondents' ages ranged from 12 to 18. The respondents were 36 to 42 at the time of their round 20 interviews. (Round 20 is the most recent data release, fielded in 2021-2022.)

Number of respondents in survey: 8,984 individuals initially interviewed in round 1. About 75 percent (6,713) of the round 1 sample were interviewed in round 20. For an overview of sample sizes by round, see table "NLSY97 Sample Sizes by Subsample, Race/Ethnicity & Gender."

Gender: 4,599 (51%) males and 4,385 (49%) females in initial survey.

Race/ Ethnicity (in initial survey):

  • Non-black/non-Hispanic: 4,665 (51.9%)
  • Black non-Hispanic: 2,335 (26%)
  • Hispanic or Latino: 1,901 (21.2%)
  • Mixed: 83 (0.9%)

Subsample design: Two subsamples comprise the NLSY97 cohort (See variable denoted as CV_SAMPLE_TYPE in Investigator.):

  • A cross-sectional sample of 6,748 respondents designed to be representative of people living in the United States during the initial survey round and born between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 1984. For more information on representativeness of sample, see NLSY97 Technical Sampling Report (2000).
  • A supplemental sample of 2,236 respondents designed to oversample Hispanic/Latino and black people living in the United States during the initial survey round and born during the same period as the cross-sectional sample.

Number of survey rounds available to the public thus far: 20 rounds. (Access data at In 2021, respondents also received the NLSY97 COVID-19 Supplement, which queried them on how the pandemic affected their health and employment. 

Types of information gathered in survey:

Funding Sources for the NLSY97:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides funding to collect data on youth labor force experiences, investments in education, training, government program participation, and many other topics influenced by labor market behavior.

Other special sets of questions have been funded as indicated:

  1. Various questions in the self-administered portion of the Youth Questionnaire, including questions on health, fertility, and social relationships, have been funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
  2. The 1996 and 2000 school surveys, which collected information from all high schools with a 12th grade in the 147 NLSY97 primary sampling units, as well as the collection and coding of high school transcripts, were funded by the Department of Education. See School & Transcript Surveys for details and availability information.
  3. Questions on crime and criminal activities found in the self-administered portion of the Youth Questionnaire were sponsored by the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. These questions are described in Crime, Delinquency & Arrest.
  4. The round 1 administration of the CAT-ASVAB (Computer Adaptive Test-Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), a military enlistment test that was given to NLSY97 respondents, was jointly sponsored by the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor. See Administration of the CAT-ASVAB for further details.