Using the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY) to Conduct Life Course Analyses

This is one of 26 chapters published in the Handbook of Life Course Health Development.


Abstract: The National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY) are a set of three separate US cohorts. Two of the cohorts, the NLSY79 and the NLSY97, are nationally representative, while the third, the NLSY79 Child and Young Adult cohort, follows the offspring born to female NLSY79 respondents. The NLSY79 began data collection in 1979 from an initial sample of 12,686 young men and women born between 1957 and 1964; the NLSY97 cohort, an initial group of 8984 young people born between 1980 and 1984, was first interviewed in 1997. Both the NLSY79 and NLSY97 cohorts have been interviewed annually or biennially since their inceptions. NLSY79 Child data were first obtained in 1986, when 4971 children were interviewed. Over 11,000 children have been born in total. The children have been regularly interviewed and/or assessed since 1986, many of them through their teens into their young adult years. Data for all three cohorts are remarkably suited for life course analysis due to the breadth of topical areas included in the interviews: health, education, employment, household information, family background, marital history, childcare, income and assets, attitudes, substance use, and criminal activity. The NLSY data also provide opportunities for multi-generational and kinship research. Data on health and recent research using NLSY health data are a focus of this chapter.



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