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Dataset: National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97)

Basic Information
Dataset Full Name National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997
Dataset Acronym NLSY97

The National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) are a set of surveys sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  and are designed to gather information over time regarding the labor market experiences of different cohorts. The NLSY97 (and its predecessor the NLTSY79) was designed to be nationally representative, and includes 8,984 transition aged youth (ages 12-16 as of Dec. 31, 1996) in the United States focusing on transition from school to work and adulthood. The NLSY97 contains extensive information on the youths’ education such as high school transcripts, as well as data on their family, community backgrounds, and eventual labor market participation. The data include measures of knowledge and skills in multiple areas including reading and mathematics. The NLSY97 data permit the examination of the influence of schooling and other environmental factors on labor market participation and career establishment as well as government program participation and family formation. As of 2014 the cohort are ages 29-31 and data collection is ongoing. There is also data available for the NLSY97’s predecessor, the NLSY79, which is a similar ongoing study that follows a cohort of young adults who were ages 14-22 in 1979 (ages 49-57 in 2014). Note that the disability and health condition data is more limited early on in the 1979 study (for more information see:   https://www.nlsinfo.org/content/cohorts/nlsy79/ ).

Key Terms Transition, Youth, Longitudinal, Employment
Study Design Longitudinal
Data Type(s) Administrative
Sponsoring Agency/Entity

U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Labor (DOL): Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Health Conditions/Disability Measures
Health Condition(s)

Anemia, Asthma, Cancer, Cardiovascular condition, Congenital conditions, Depression scale, Diabetes, Epilepsy or seizure disorder, HIV/AIDS, Orthopedic conditions

Disability Measures

Cognitive disability, Developmental disabilities, Functional limitations (ADLs and/or IADLs), Hearing disability, Intellectual disability, Mental health disability, Physical disability, Visual disability, Work/school limitation

Measures/Outcomes of Interest
Topics Transitional youth, Education, Schooling, Aptitude, Labor force, Employment, Onset, Income, Assets, Program participation, 
Sample Population Transition aged youth (ages 14-16 in 1997)
Sample Size/Notes 8,984 transition aged youth (ages 12-16 as of Dec. 31, 1996)
Unit of Observation Individual
Continent(s) North America

United States

Geographic Coverage United States
Geographic Specificity National
Special Population(s)


Data Collection
Data Collection Mode Survey, Interview, Assessments, Administrative records
Years Collected 1997-current
Data Collection Frequency Annual
Strengths and Limitations
Strengths Excellent documentation available. Extensive series of survey items regarding  physical, genetic, mental, and emotional conditions in specific survey waves. Includes age disability/condition first noticed and extent condition limits activities. One in five youth identified with a disability (note: see limitations below).
Limitations Very broad definition of severity used for some disability questions. Some mental/emotional condition questions  limited due to focus on  those resulting in participation restrictions (i.e., school and work activities).  Sample attrition over time.  Sample may be too small for feasible analysis/estimates of certain specific disability types.
Data Details
Primary Website


Data Access


Data Access Requirements

Public Use Dataset

Summary Tables/Reports NA
Data Components Waves 1-17 currently available (1997-2016)
Similar/Related Dataset(s)

National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997

Selected Papers
Other Papers Event History Data: Lessons from the NLSY97 (2007):

Shandra C. Hogan, D. (2008) School-to-work program participation and the post-high school employment of young adults with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, Volume 29, Number 2. pp 117-130.

User Guide:


Using and understanding the data:


Topical Guide to the Data:


Health: Conditions and Practices:


Related Repositories

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The Rehabilitation Research Cross-dataset Variable Catalog has been developed through the Center for Large Data Research & Data Sharing in Rehabilitation (CLDR). The Center for Large Data Research and Data Sharing in Rehabilitation involves a consortium of investigators from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Cornell University's Yang Tan Institute (YTI), and the University of Michigan. The CLDR is funded by NIH - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, through the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. (P2CHD065702).

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Acknowledgements: This tool was developed through the efforts of William Erickson and Arun Karpur, and web designers Jason Criss and Jeff Trondsen at Cornell University. Many thanks to graduate students Kyoung Jo Oh and Yeong Joon Yoon who developed much of the content used in this tool.

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