Work Experience

Young Men

Important Information About Work Experience Data

Although the NLS has collected information on labor force behavior since its inception, only partial work histories for respondents in the Older and Young Men cohorts can be constructed for certain survey years. The degree of completeness of the work history data varies by cohort and survey year.

For those wishing to measure labor force attachment over time, three approaches are available. One can examine: (1) the amount of time in weeks that a respondent spent working, unemployed (looking for work), or out of the labor force; (2) the start and stop dates of each job a respondent has held (a continuous job history); or (3) the start and stop dates associated with each employer for whom a respondent worked (a continuous employer history).

In general, summary weeks data (information on the number of weeks working, unemployed, and out of the labor force) were collected during each interview for either the previous 12 months or the previous calendar year. The term "summary weeks data" refers to the respondent's answers (in weeks) to the following types of questions: "During the past 12 months, in how many different weeks did you do any work at all?" Respondents who worked 52 weeks were asked, "Did you lose any full weeks of work during the past 12 months because you were on layoff from a job or lost a job?" Respondents who worked less than 52 weeks were asked, "In any of the remaining weeks, were you looking for work or on layoff from a job?" Those answering "yes" were asked to report the number weeks. Respondents who did not work during the past 12 months were asked if they had spent any time looking for work or on layoff and if they had, how many weeks. While placement and wording of the individual questions have varied, this core set of summary questions is always present in each interview.

Unfortunately, such data collection consistency did not occur in obtaining information to track all job and/or all employer changes. The gaps in information collected on weeks worked (see discussion below) are minor compared to the gaps in information on jobs held and employment spells. Due to the fact that personal and telephone interviews used different time reference periods, it is only possible to construct a complete job and/or employer record for the early survey years of the Young Men. During the early survey years, the Young Men were personally interviewed every year because they were experiencing a great amount of change (movement between school and work, between jobs for an employer, or between employers). As long as this interview pattern was maintained, data to construct a continuous job history are available. With respect to employer change, it is almost always possible to link employers within a given interview; however, it is not possible to link all employers across interview years.

There are three different ways to construct a summary measure for number of weeks worked, seeking work, or out of the labor force. Users can examine the start and stop dates associated with each job, especially in the personal interview years, when the questionnaire included a detailed work history in a column format. (These variables can be found in NLS Investigator under the keyword "Most_Recent_Job.") When the information about start and stop dates is combined, a fairly complete picture of total number of weeks in the labor force can be pieced together. This is the procedure that has been used at CHRR to create the *KEY* weeks variables. Users attempting to create number of weeks worked themselves instead of using the created *KEY* variables need to pay close attention to the skip patterns followed in the early survey years. Many check items sent respondents to different parts of the questionnaire to answer questions worded specifically for their particular situations. When constructing number of weeks worked, users should pay particular attention to the dates in the detailed work history section. During the early survey years, the Census Bureau truncated the date the respondent started the job to the preceding interview date if it started before then, so the actual start date may not be available; in the later years, when an interviewer inadvertently gathered information before the date of the last interview, this information was sometimes left on the data file instead of being blanked out and eliminated.

Two alternatives to this time-consuming procedure of piecing the record together from start and stop dates include: (1) use of information from the summary weeks questions present in the questionnaire for all years or (2) a combination of data from the *KEY* summary weeks variables for those years in which they were constructed and information from the summary weeks questions for those years in which no *KEY* variable is available. The *KEY* variables (those variable with titles of '# of Weeks_Worked [reference period] *KEY*,' '# of Weeks_Unemployed [reference period] *KEY*,' and '# of Weeks_OLF [reference period] *KEY*') were created for all survey years in which Young Men respondents were personally interviewed. Care should be taken to check that the number of cases on the summary weeks variables is reasonably close to the number of respondents interviewed (since all respondents should have a value on these variables). If this is not the case, the user needs to make sure that the desired information is not present in another part of the questionnaire or to adjust for the fact that in some years respondents who had not worked since the last interview are assigned to "NA" or missing instead of being assigned a "zero" for zero weeks of works, as one would expect.

Gaps in the reference periods for the summary week variables occur in the early 1970s when the project phased in an alternating personal and telephone interview pattern. The regularly fielded personal interviews conducted during the early survey years gave way to a 2-2-1 interview pattern (i.e., two telephone interviews occurring two years apart followed by a personal interview at the end of the five-year period). The intent of the telephone interview was to obtain a brief update of information on each respondent and to maintain sufficient contact such that the lengthier personal interview could be completed. Due to the fact that the reference period for the summary weeks questions within a telephone interview was the previous 12 months and that no interview was conducted the year before each telephone survey, gaps in the summary weeks records of Young Men respondents occurred.

The discussion below reviews by the types of summary weeks information that are available from the questionnaire. Included is information on changes in the reference periods for which these data were collected. The weeks worked accounting is not completely accurate due to the slight over- or under-counting of weeks that occurs when a respondent is not interviewed exactly one year from the date of the last interview. If the respondent accurately answers the question on the number of weeks worked in the last (or past) 12 months and it had been 13 months since the last interview, the summary weeks variables would miss four weeks of employment status information. Although Census was asked in the early years to interview each respondent as close as possible to the date of the previous interview, the actual dates of interview can and should be checked.

1966 Survey. The 1966 survey first asked if respondents were employed in the week before the survey. If not, respondents were asked to report when they last worked for two consecutive weeks, with responses grouped into the following categories: "never worked at all," "never worked 2 weeks or more," "before 1961," or the month and year if the date was 1961 or later. Respondents then described their current job or the last job held since January 1, 1961. If the respondent was not enrolled in school, he also provided details on the job he held during his last full year in high school (if applicable) and the first job he held for a least one month after he stopped attending school full-time. Finally, all respondents who had ever worked were asked the summary weeks questions on weeks worked, unemployed, and out of the labor force for the previous 12 months.

1967-1969 Surveys. In 1967, respondents first provided information about their current job or the most recent job held since October 15, 1966, were asked about that job. If applicable, respondents also provided information about their longest intervening job. All respondents except those unable to work were asked the summary weeks questions for the last 12-month period (respondents who had not worked were asked job search and layoff questions to distinguish between weeks unemployed and weeks out of the labor force). The 1968 and 1969 personal interviews followed the 1967 pattern.

1970 Survey. The 1970 interview first collected data on the current or most recent job and then gathered a detailed work history regarding all jobs held since October 1, 1969. The summary weeks questions covered the period since October 1, 1969. In 1970, respondents who were not interviewed in 1969 were administered a special questionnaire that asked about the previous two years. In these cases, the same information was gathered as in the regular questionnaire, but the reference date was October 1, 1968.

1971 Survey. The 1971 interview collected data on the respondent's current job and a dual job, if applicable. Using a column format, the survey then gathered a detailed work history of all jobs since the date of the most recent interview. The summary weeks questions similarly refer to the date of the previous interview. A retrospective series of questions, addressed only to respondents who had not been enrolled in school or enlisted in the Armed Forces at any survey point (slightly more than half the respondents), asked for the total number of weeks not working since October 1966. A follow-up question elicited information on how many of the weeks not working the respondent was on layoff or looking for a job.

1973 and 1975 Surveys. The gaps in the employment record start with the 1973 telephone interview. In this survey, respondents described either their current job or the job most recently held since October 1971. The summary weeks questions referred to the last 12 month period. The 1975 telephone interview followed the 1973 pattern.

1976 Survey. In the 1976 personal interview, which was similar to 1971, respondents provided information about their current job or the last job held since the date of the 1975 survey (or since October 1, 1975, if the respondent was not interviewed in 1975). Respondents were then asked about all other jobs held since 1975 and about the longest job held since November 1971. The summary weeks questions, addressed to all respondents, referred to either the 1975 interview date (or to October 1, 1975, for noninterviews in 1975) or the date when they stopped working at their current or last job.

1978 and 1980 Surveys. The 1978 telephone survey asks the respondent to describe his current job or the last job held since the 1976 interview date (or since October 1, 1976, if the respondent was not interviewed in 1976). The main set of summary weeks questions referred to last 12 months as in previous surveys. A new question then obtained more limited information on the number of weeks worked for the 12-month period previous to the last 12 months. Respondents reported whether they had worked most of the year (46-52 weeks), more than half a year (26-45 weeks), less than half a year (1-25 weeks), or had not worked at all. By using the midpoints of the ranges, researchers can approximate the number of weeks worked, although they cannot distinguish between weeks unemployed and out of the labor force. The 1980 interview repeated the 1978 pattern.

1981 Survey. In the final 1981 interview, data were collected for those who had worked since the date of the 1980 interview, if they were interviewed in 1980, or since October 1, 1980, for those not interviewed in that year. Respondents were asked for information on both their current or last job and all other jobs held since 1980. Respondents were also asked about the longest job held since November 1976. The summary week questions were asked of all respondents; the pattern replicated that used in 1976.

The detailed work history for the Young Men focuses on jobs rather than employer changes. Summary week variables are available for all but four years; range data on weeks worked are available for two of these four years.

Descriptive Tables

The tables below are presented to provide the researcher with information on sample sizes by race and interview year for weeks worked and number of employers.

Table YM1, "Number of Weeks Worked All Survey Years," provides information on the average number of weeks worked by respondents interviewed in all survey years. This summarizes all information available on number of weeks worked. Table YM2, "Number of Weeks Worked/Year by # of Survey Years Reported Work," presents information on the average number of weeks worked by number of years that the respondent was interviewed. Table YM3, "Number of Weeks Worked by Survey Year," depicts the number of weeks worked for each respondent interviewed in that survey year, including both the mean and number of cases for those who report work and those who do not report any weeks worked. Table YM4, "Number of Employers by Survey Year," presents information on the numbers of employers reported during each survey year.

A number of decisions were made during the construction of these tables in an attempt to make the information comparable across cohorts. The tables are not weighted and are not intended to be used to make inferences about populations. The universe for the first two sets of tables is all respondents who were interviewed in all years. Years in which the *KEY* or summary week variables were found to have an upper range greater than 52 were truncated back to 52. In those years that a *KEY* variable covers a two year period, the total number of weeks was divided by two. The weeks tables do not take into account whether or not the respondent was in the labor force; if a respondent was interviewed and did not report any weeks worked, he was assigned a "zero" even if, for example, he was permanently handicapped and would not have been in the labor force under normal conditions. The number of respondents in the "NOT WORKING" categories in the third and fourth set of tables are similar although not identical. There was no attempt to eliminate respondents who did not have information available for both weeks and employers. The last set of tables presents information on the number of employers reported each survey year; however, the reference period varies between and across cohorts. "Survey year" could refer to the last twelve months, or to a period since the last interview that was one, two, three, or more years ago. Examining information on the total number of employers across time is difficult and time-consuming. Although it is possible to find information for most detailed work history years on the same and different employers within the survey period, the main linkage across years is the one for the current employer in the "CPS" section. (The CPS section refers to the series of employment questions that replicated the questions asked in the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) of American households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Department of Labor). In other words, it is not possible in the early survey years to know, for example, that the intervening employer in the second column of the detailed work history section is the same employer as that entered two years later in the third column of the work history without making a number of assumptions based on matching of the job and/or employer characteristics. In later survey years, it is possible to link an employer in a work history column to the employer at the time of the last interview. However, use of this extra information was beyond the scope of these tabular presentations.

Table YM1. Number of Weeks Worked All Survey Years (Unweighted): Young Men

Race Number of Cases Average Weeks
Non-black 1688 44.6
Black 392 43.1
Total 2080 44.3

Table YM2. Number of Weeks Worked Per Year by Number of Survey Years Reported Work (Unweighted): Young Men

# Years
Reported Work
Non-black Black Total
# of Cases Average Weeks # of Cases Average Weeks # of Cases Average Weeks
0 5 -- 0 -- 5 --
1-8 46 32.8 24 40.5 70 35.4
9-11 531 41.3 156 39.9 687 41.0
12 1106 46.7 212 45.8 1318 46.6

Table YM3. Number of Weeks Worked by Survey Year (Unweighted): Young Men

  Respondents Working Average Weeks Worked Respondents Not Working Respondents Missing
Year Total Non-black Black Total Non-black Black Total Non-black Black Total Non-black Black
1966 4462 3264 1198 33.8 34.6 31.7 763 523 240 -- -- --
1967 4228 3088 1140 36.1 37.1 33.5 562 389 173 435 310 125
1968 4037 2961 1076 38.4 39.1 36.3 281 194 87 907 632 275
1969 3850 2860 990 39.9 40.6 37.7 183 116 67 1192 811 381
1970 3585 2682 903 42.7 42.9 42.1 408 280 128 1232 825 407
1971 3721 2809 912 41.8 42.3 40.3 266 189 77 1238 789 449
1973 3876 2983 893 46.6 46.8 45.9 138 87 51 1211 717 494
1975 3796 2949 847 46.3 47.1 43.5 181 113 68 1248 725 523
1976 3326 2599 727 46.8 47.5 44.4 369 249 120 1530 939 591
1978 3441 2720 721 48.9 49.4 47.2 97 55 42 1687 1012 675
1980 3334 2642 692 48.5 49.0 46.5 104 56 48 1787 1089 698
1981 2952 2333 619 49.8 50.0 49.2 446 289 157 1827 1165 662

Table YM4. Number of Employers by Survey Year: Young Men (Unweighted)

  Respondents Working Average # of Employers Respondents Not Working Respondents Missing
Year Total Non-black Black Total Non-black Black Total Non-black Black Total Non-black Black
1966 4469 3268 1201 1.9 1.9 2.0 756 519 237 -- -- --
1967 4091 2999 1092 1.4 1.4 1.4 699 478 221 435 310 125
1968 4045 2966 1079 1.8 1.8 1.8 273 189 84 907 632 275
1969 3858 2866 992 1.8 1.8 1.9 175 110 65 1192 811 381
1970 3693 2758 935 1.7 1.7 1.8 300 204 96 1232 825 407
1971 3790 2858 932 1.6 1.6 1.7 197 140 57 1238 789 449
1976 3476 2713 763 1.3 1.3 1.2 219 135 84 1530 939 591
1978 3447 2724 723 1.3 1.3 1.3 91 51 40 1687 1012 675
1980 3348 2647 701 1.2 1.2 1.2 90 51 39 1787 1089 698
1981 3041 2395 646 1.1 1.1 1.1 357 227 130 1827 1165 662