Assets & Debts

Assets & Debts

Created Variables

CV_HH_NET_WORTH_P. Calculates the net worth of the respondent's household according to the parent of the respondent. Available for round 1 only.

CVC_HH_NET_WORTH_XX. Calculates the net worth of a respondent's household at age 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40.

CVC_HOUSE_VALUE_XX, CVC_HOUSE_DEBT_XX, CVC_HOUSE_TYPE_XX. Provide the value, debt, and primary housing type of the respondent's home at age 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40.

CVC_ASSETS_FINANCIAL_XX, CVC_ASSETS_NONFINANCIAL_XX. Provides the value of respondent's financial and nonfinancial assets at age 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40.

CVC_ASSETS_DEBTS_XX. Provides the amount of debt the respondent owes (excluding housing value) at age 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40.

CVC_ASSETS_RND_XX. The round during which the assets information was collected for the respondent at age 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40.


Important Information About Using Assets and Debt Data

1. Researchers using asset data should be aware of survey practices with respect to topcoding high asset values. Notes in the codeblocks (variable-specific information accessed through NLS Investigator) provide more information about the exact calculations used to topcode each variable. 

2. In the Assets at 30 and the Assets at 35 modules on the NLSY97, a questionnaire error caused a set of respondents to bypass questions on tax advantaged accounts. The questionnaire path should have asked respondents first whether they had a pension in YAST30-4270, then whether they had tax-advantaged accounts in YAST30-FA_8, and then whether they were owed money from loans in YAST30-4300. The skip pattern error occurred when respondents who reported not having a pension were skipped past the tax-advantaged question to the loans owed question; as a result, only respondents reporting a pension were specifically asked about tax-advantaged accounts. An invalid skip (-3) has been assigned to YAST30-FA_8 and YAST35-FA_8 for all respondents who were erroneously skipped past this question.

It should be noted that all respondents were asked about "other savings or substantial assets that we haven’t already discussed" in YAST30-4880. Respondents not asked about tax-advantaged accounts would have been able to include these assets in this total, despite not being prompted with the specific tax-advantaged questions. As a result, the created variables for total assets [CVC_HH_NET_WORTH_30/35] and for financial assets [CVC_FINANCIAL_ASSETS_30/35] have been created for all respondents. Researchers should note the inconsistency in how respondents are prompted for this class of assets.

Although data on assets are available in every round, individual respondents receive assets questions at infrequent intervals rather than each round. Respondent eligibility for the assets section is based on independence criteria in the early rounds and birth year for more recent rounds. NLSY97 youths were considered independent if they have had a child, were enrolled in a 4-year college, were no longer enrolled in school, were not living with any parents or parent-figures, or had ever been married or were in a marriage-like relationship (defined in rounds 1-8 as a sexual relationship in which partners of the opposite sex live together) at the time of the survey. All NLSY97 respondents are now considered independent.

Rounds 1-3. Respondents were asked assets questions if they were age 18 as of the previous calendar year reference date (12/31/1998 for round 3), or if they met one of the other independence criteria.

Rounds 4 and up. Respondents were asked questions if they were newly independent or if they were age 18 as of the interview date. In addition, respondents were asked assets questions again in the first interview after they turned age 20. A similar series of assets questions was asked again when the respondent turned 25, 30, 35 and 40. However, in rounds 9 and up, these were asked of the birth cohort rather than relying on age as of interview date.

Therefore, not all independent respondents reached the assets section in each round. For example, in round 3 John Doe was age 16 and got married; because he was considered newly independent, he answered the assets section of the questionnaire. In round 4, he was age 17 but did not yet meet the age requirement; he skipped the assets section.  In round 5, he was age 18 and now eligible to again answer the assets questions. In round 6, he was skipped past the assets questions at age 19 but when he turned 20, he answered them in round 7. In round 8 he was 21 and was skipped passed the assets questions.

Beginning in round 9, assets questions known as the Assets 25 (YAST25) section were administered to respondents in their first interview during or after the calendar year in which they reached the age of 25. This section is very similar in content to the original assets (YAST) section, but parts of the section have been reordered and restructured to better capture the assets the respondents might have as they reach their mid-20s. Some new material has been added such as questions on bankruptcy and whether the respondent has ever gotten behind on loan or mortgage payments. 

Round 12 was the last year any respondents went through the original assets (YAST) section.

Beginning in round 14, assets questions known as the Assets 30 (YAST30) section were administered to respondents in their first interview during or after the calendar year in which they reached age 30. The Assets 30 section is very similar in content to the Assets 25 section, but some of the question ordering was changed, and the section has been streamlined to reduce the number of questions asked of respondents who have no assets or very few assets.

Assets 25, Assets 30, Assets 35 and Assets 40 variables are now released as combined-round variables. Here’s an example using Assets 25: Although the individual round variables are still available, the recommended set of Assets 25 variables is now the combined set in which all data collected in rounds 9 through 14 are included. The names and titles for these variables are identical to the single-round variable names, with the exception of the suffix "_COMB" attached to the end of each variable name. For example, in the combined data, YAST25-4400 becomes YAST25-4400_COMB. The survey year for these variables appears as XRND. The variable YAST25-COMB_ROUND indicates the round in which each respondent's Assets 25 data were collected.

Table 1 illustrates by round the number of respondents who were eligible to go through the assets sections.

Table 1: Number of NLSY97 Respondents Eligible for Assets Section By Round

Survey Round
# of Respondents eligible for Asset Questions
1,331 eligible for Assets 25 (YAST25) section; 181 eligible for Assets (YAST) section
1,657 eligible for Assets 25 (YAST25) section; 104 eligible for Assets (YAST) section
1,631 eligible for Assets 25 (YAST25) section; 27 eligible for Assets (YAST) section
1,691 eligible for Assets 25 (YAST25) section; 6 eligible for Assets (YAST) section
1,665 eligible for Assets 25 (YAST25) section. Starting this round, respondents no longer go through original Assets section.
114 eligible for Assets 25 (YAST25) section; 1,360 eligible for Assets 30 (YAST30) section
46 eligible for Assets 25 (YAST25) section; 1,593 eligible for Assets 30 (YAST30) section
18 eligible for Assets 25 (YAST25) section; 3,020 eligible for Assets 30 (YAST30) section
1,627 eligible for Assets 30 (YAST30) section; 1,291 eligible for Assets 35 (YAST35) section
111 eligible for Assets 30 (YAST30) section; 2,876 eligible for Assets 35 (YAST35) section
0 eligible for Assets 30 (YAST30) section; 3,139 eligible for Assets 35 (YAST35) section
188 eligible for the Assets 35 (YAST35) section; 2,610 eligible for the Assets 40 (YAST40) section

Respondents are surveyed on their current asset holdings and the amount of debt they owe at the time of the survey. The assets section of the questionnaire first determines if respondents rent or own their dwelling place. These questions are tailored to respondents living on a farm or ranch, in a mobile home, or in another living situation (e.g., house, apartment). Renters are then asked to state the amount they pay in rent and utilities (such as heat, electricity, and water) per month. In rounds 2 and up, respondents who own their own dwelling were asked for more details, such as the percentage of the residence they owned, its value, and whether they have made improvements.

Beginning in round 11, a small number of housing questions were added to the household information section for those respondents who are not scheduled to receive the assets section in that particular round. These housing questions ask if the respondent owns or rents and, if they own, collects the date of purchase, the price of the home, and the amount of mortgages and other home loans. Beginning in round 14, all respondents will answer the housing questions in each round. The housing questions begin with the prefix YAST- without the age number added to it in order to emphasize the lack of an age restriction on these questions.

Respondents who report owning part of their residential property are asked to estimate the percentage of the property held by them and the current value of their holdings. The respondent is asked if the property is mortgaged and, if so, the amount still owed on that mortgage or land contract. Additional questions determine the amount of property debt. The survey first asks respondents if a friend or relative loaned money to buy (or remodel) the residence. Follow-up questions include the relationship of the lender to the youth, the amount of money each lender provided, and the amount the respondent still owes. Next, these respondents are asked if the property is secured by other loans such as second mortgages or home equity loans. If the respondent reports either type of loan, he or she is asked to state the amount of the loan currently outstanding. Those who own property are surveyed on the amount they paid in property taxes in the past calendar year. A follow-up question asks for the average amount each respondent pays for utilities in a month.

After determining the respondent's residential ownership status, the second part of this section surveys other asset holdings, such as a business or vehicle, as well as current debt. For each asset held or debt owed by the respondent, he or she reports the amount the asset is worth or the amount currently owed. If a respondent reports a loan of $200 or more ($1000 or more in the Assets 25 section), follow-up questions determine the relationship of the lender to the respondent, the amount loaned, and the amount owed. 

After the initial round, additional questions referred to the spouse or partner of the youth. Respondents who were married or began living with a partner since the date of last interview were asked for the amount that would be left over if the spouse/partner sold their assets and paid off any debts. A second question, directed toward all respondents with a spouse or partner, asked whether that person had assets, savings, or investments that the respondent did not share.  A follow-up question recorded the value of these assets.

Parent Questionnaire (round 1). The responding parent provided information on his or her assets and debts in round 1. These data are described in Parent Characteristics.

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys: Information on assets is regularly collected from each cohort (except for NLSY79 children under age 15). Users should note, however, that the assets included have varied widely over time and among cohorts. Data on the respondent's debts have been collected from each cohort on a less regular basis. For more details, including specific years, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide.

Survey Instruments: These questions are found in the income and assets section (YINC) of the round 1 Youth Questionnaire and in the assets section (question names begin with YAST, YAST25, YAST30, and YAST35) of the Youth Questionnaire beginning in round 2.

Related User's Guide Sections College Experience
Main Area of Interest Assets & Debts
Supplemental Areas of Interest Education: College Experience