The estimates in this release were obtained using data from the first 15 rounds
of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97). The NLSY97 collects
extensive information on labor market behavior and educational experiences.
Information about respondents' families and communities also is obtained in the
This survey is conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University
of Chicago and the Center for Human Resource Research at The Ohio State University,
under the direction and sponsorship of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S.
Department of Labor. Partial funding support for the survey has been provided by
the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department
of Justice, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education of the U.S. Department
of Education, the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
and the National Science Foundation.
The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 is a nationally representative
sample of 8,984 young men and women who were ages 12 to 16 on December 31, 1996.
This sample is composed of the following groups:
--A cross-sectional sample designed to represent the noninstitutionalized,
civilian segment of young people living in the U.S. in 1997 and born
between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 1984.
--Supplemental samples of Hispanic or Latino and black youths living in
the U.S. in 1997 and born between January 1, 1980, and December 31, 1984.
The fifteenth round of annual interviews took place between October 2011 and May
2012. This release examines the period from respondents' 18th birthday until
their 27th birthday. All results are weighted using the survey weights from the
round in the year the respondents turned 27. The survey weights correct for
oversampling of some demographic groups and nonresponse. When weighted, the
data represent all people who were born in the years 1980 to 1984 and living
in the U.S. in 1997. Not represented by the survey are U.S. immigrants who
were born from 1980 to 1984 and moved to the U.S. after 1997. NLSY97 sample
members remain eligible to be interviewed during military service or if they
become incarcerated or institutionalized.
Work history data
The total number of jobs that people hold during their work life is an easy
concept to understand but a difficult one to measure. Reliable estimates require
a survey that interviews the same people over the course of their entire work
life and also keeps track of all the jobs they ever held. The NLSY97 tracks
the number of jobs that people have held, but the respondents in this survey
are still young, and have many years of schooling and work life ahead of them.
As the cohort continues to age, however, more complete information will become
A unique feature of the NLSY97 is that it collects the beginning and ending
dates of all jobs held by a respondent so that a longitudinal history can be
constructed of each respondent's work experiences. The NLSY97 work history
data provide a week-by-week work record of each respondent from January 1,
1994, through the most recent survey date. These data contain information
on the respondent's labor force status each week, the usual hours worked per
week at all jobs, and earnings for all jobs. If a respondent worked at more
than one job in any week, hours and earnings are obtained for additional jobs.
When a respondent who missed one or more consecutive survey rounds is interviewed
again, he or she is asked to provide information about all time since the last
Interaction between time and age in a longitudinal survey
Because the NLSY97 is a longitudinal survey, meaning the same people are
surveyed over time, the ages of the respondents change with each survey round.
It is important to keep in mind this inherent link between the calendar years
and the ages of the respondents. The youngest respondents in the sample (birth
year 1984) turned 27 during calendar year 2011, whereas the oldest respondents
(birth year 1980) turned 27 during calendar year 2007. Some respondents may not
be used in all tables if information about their work history is incomplete.
Educational attainment. Educational attainment is taken at the time of the
respondents' 27th birthday. If a respondent had not earned a high school
diploma or General Educational Development (GED) credential, he or she is
counted as a high school dropout. Individuals with an associate's degree
or any enrollment in college after high school are counted as having some
Employed. The NLSY97 collects employment histories for civilian jobs and
military service. Respondents are classified as employed if they did any work
during the specified time period as paid employees, as self-employed proprietors
of their own businesses, as unpaid workers in a business owned by a member of
their family, or if they were serving in the Armed Forces.
Unemployed. Respondents are classified as unemployed if they did not work
during the specified time period but reported that they looked for work or
were on layoff from a job. No probing for intensity of job search is done.
Not in the labor force. Respondents are classified as not in the labor force if
they did not work or look for work during the specified time period.
Job. A job is defined as a period of work with a particular employer. Jobs are
therefore employer-based, not position-based. If a respondent indicates that he
or she left a job but in a subsequent survey returned to the same job, it would
not be counted as a new job. For self-employed workers, each “new” job is defined
by the individuals themselves.
Partner Status. Partner status is determined using the household roster during the
interview in the year the respondent turned 27. To be marked as cohabitating, the
respondent must be living with an individual of either gender for at least one month
in a sexual relationship. Living with roommates or parents would not affect partner
Children in the household. The presence of children in the household is determined
using the household roster during the interview the year a respondent turned 27.
Children must be related to either the respondent or the respondent's cohabitating
partner. This includes biological, step, adopted, and foster children. Children
of platonic roommates or other family members are not counted as children in the home.
Race and ethnic groups. In this release, the findings are reported for non-Hispanic
whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics or Latinos. These groups are mutually
exclusive but not exhaustive. Other groups, which are included in the overall totals,
are not shown separately because their representation in the survey sample is not
sufficiently large to provide statistically reliable estimates. In other BLS
publications, estimates usually are published for whites, blacks, and Hispanics or
Latinos, but these groups are not mutually exclusive. “Hispanic or Latino” is
considered to be an ethnic group, and people in that group can be of any race. Most
other BLS publications include estimates for Hispanics or Latinos in the white and
black race groups in addition to the Hispanic or Latino ethnic group.
Information in this release will be made available to sensory-impaired individuals
upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.