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National Longitudinal Surveys

NLSY97 Data Overview

The NLSY97 consists of a nationally representative sample of 8,984 men and women born during the years 1980 through 1984 and living in the United States at the time of the initial survey in 1997.  Participants were ages 12 to 16 as of December 31, 1996.  Interviews were conducted annually from 1997 to 2011 and biennially since then.  The ongoing cohort has been surveyed 18 times as of date.  Data are available from Round 1 (1997-98) through Round 18 (2017-18). 

The NLSY97 collects extensive information on respondents’ labor market behavior and educational experiences.  The survey also includes data on the youths’ family and community backgrounds to help researchers assess the impact of schooling and other environmental factors on these labor market entrants. Data from the NLSY97 also aid in determining how youths’ experiences relate to establishing careers, participating in government programs, and forming families. Finally, information from the NLSY97 allows researchers to compare the progress of this cohort with that of other NLS cohorts (See Cross-Cohort NLSY79/97 Data Harmonization).

Topical Guide to the Data

The topical guide presents detailed information on major subject areas and variables in the NLSY97 survey.  The Asterisk Tables provide summary tables of variables selected from Round 1 to the latest round.  Below are the topics gathered in the survey.

Introduction to the Sample

The NLSY79 sample was selected to represent the civilian, noninstitutional population of the United States within the eligible age range – 12 to 16 years of age as of December 31, 1996 -- with oversamples of Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks.  The majority of the oldest cohort members were still in secondary school during the first survey round and the youngest respondents had not yet entered the labor market.  Eligible youths and their parents were administered a questionnaire that covered a range of topics, including work experience, education, work-related attitudes, and other labor force and human capital issues.  

At the time of initital survey in 1997, 8,984 respondents were interviewed.  Men accounted for 51 precent (4,385) and Women accounted for 49 percent (4,385). The survey incldued 51.9 percent (4,665) non-Black/non-Hispanic, 26 percent (2,335) Black non-Hispanic, 21.2 percent (1,901) Hispanic or Latino, and 0.9 percent Mixed raced respondents. To select the sample, interviewers screened 75,291 households in 147 primary sampling units that did not overlap. (A primary sampling unit is a metropolitan area or, in nonmetropolitan areas, a single county or group of counties.) Two samples were drawn—a cross-sectional sample representing the U.S. population born in the years 1980 through 1984 and supplemental samples of the black and Hispanic population born in those years. The supplemental samples facilitate more reliable statistical analyses of these groups. The table below provides an overview of those who responded to the survey in Round 1 and in the latest Round 18. View the profile of the samples for all Rounds  

NLSY97 Sample Sizes by Subsample, Race/Ethnicity & Gender
Survey Year, GenderTotal SampleCross-sectional SampleSupplemental Sample
Cross-sect. totalNon-black, non-Hisp.Black, non-Hisp.Hispanic or LatinoMixed raceSupp. totalBlack, non-Hisp.Hispanic or LatinoMixed

Round 1







Round 18







The Technical Sampling Report gives detailed descriptions of the NLSY79 sample. Learn more about the NLSY79 Sample Design & Screening Process, Interview Methods, Interview Methods, Sample Retention and Reasons for Noninterview, and Data Confidentiality.

Using and Understanding the Data

Information on survey instruments, variable types, the interviewing process, item nonresponse, sample weights and design effects, data documentation, and how to access the data are available on the NLSY97 User Guides and Documentation section.

Other Documentation

Accessing Data

View Accessing Data for detailed information on accessing the NLSY97 public-use and the confidential files. The public-use NLS data are available on the Investigator.  The links below provide answers to frequently asked questions about requesting the NLSY97 Geocode, Zip-Code and Census Tract files, and the School Survey data.

Latest News Release

Cross-Cohort NLSY79/97 Overview

An NLSY79/NLSY97 cross-cohort beta release is now available on Investigator. This dataset harmonizes NLS data across two cohorts, allowing users added opportunities to perform cross-cohort comparisons. Initially the dataset includes interview date, reason for noninterview, age, marital status, highest grade attended, highest grade completed, and employment status, with possible expansion to over 100 variables. Fixed background variables are also included, such as sex, race, and AFQT score. See Cross Cohort Harmonization Overview document for more information. To access the data, go to and select "NLS Cross Cohort Beta."

Last Modified Date: May 05, 2020