At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Provides basic information about physical activity, sleep, and body mass index.
  • Can be linked to NLSY79 Child and Young Adult survey data to obtain information about family and household factors for children born to the female respondents in this cohort (e.g., food program participation, food security).
  • Longitudinal survey.



To collect data about demographics, health, and life/work trajectories of individuals who were between the ages of 14 and 22 years and residing in the United States (U.S.) in 1979.

Target Population

Noninstitutionalized individuals who were born in the years 1957 to 1964 and resided in the U.S. when the survey began in 1979.


Began in 1979. Conducted annually through 1994 and biennially thereafter. Most recent year available is 2014.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor

Special Note(s)

See also National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Children and Young Adults (NLSY79ch) and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97).


Sample Design

Longitudinal survey.

Independent probability sample. Included oversamples of Black and Hispanic individuals, economically disadvantaged non-Black, non-Hispanic individuals, and individuals serving in the military. Learn more about the sampling design.

Sample Size

12,686 individuals who were ages 14 to 22 years in 1979. The military supplemental sample was discontinued in 1985, and the economically disadvantaged non-Black/non-Hispanic supplemental sample was discontinued in 1991. The NLSY79 sample now includes 9,964 individuals from the cross-sectional sample and the Black and Hispanic supplemental samples. This sample size is not adjusted for sample members who have died. Most recent year of available data for this cohort is 2008.

Special Note(s)

Includes detailed modules on health when respondents reached age 40 years and again at age 50 years.

Key Variables


NameMethods of Assessment
Disability (cognitive; emotional; general; hearing; vision; work-related)Interview/questionnaire
Date of birthInterview/questionnaire
Marital statusInterview/questionnaire
Number of children in household and relationship to respondentInterview/questionnaire
Participation in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and/or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)Interview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Eating out by household membersInterview/questionnaire
Food security statusInterview/questionnaire
Whether participant reviewed nutritional information on food products purchasedInterview/questionnaire

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Frequency, intensity, and type of physical activityInterview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Daytime fatigue/sleepiness and/or alertnessInterview/Questionnaire
Schedule-related sleep environment: Adolescent work schedule/ school scheduleInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disordered breathing: SnoringInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disordered breathing: OtherInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disorders: InsomniaInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disorders: Sleep apneaInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disorders: Restless leg syndromeInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disturbances and quality: Trouble falling back asleep at nightInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disturbances and quality: Waking up too earlyInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disturbances and quality: Other (restlessness)Interview/Questionnaire
Sleep duration and quantity: Total sleep time during weekends/holidaysInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep duration and quantity: Total sleep time during workdays/schooldaysInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep duration and quantity: OtherInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep-related substance use: Use of sleep aidsInterview/Questionnaire
Social sleep environment: Other (type of residence)Interview/Questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Attempts to lose/gain weightInterview/questionnaire
Height and weightInterview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
County, state, metropolitan statistical area, zip code, and census tract

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability

Public-use data, questionnaires, and other documentation can be obtained online by using the NLS Web Investigator.


Free of charge.

Special Note(s)

Access to restricted-use data (i.e., geocoded data files) can be obtained by contacting the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Geocode Variable(s)

Researchers can request access to variables on county, state, and metropolitan statistical area and use the data at the facilities of their own institutions by completing an application.

Researchers can request access to variables on zip code and census tract and use those variables at the BLS data enclave in Washington, DC. Learn more about the process required to obtain these variables.

Existing Linkages

NLSY79 data can be linked to data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Children and Young Adults (NLSY79ch), which includes the biological children of the female respondents in the NLSY79 cohort.

Special Note(s)

Learn more about how to link NLSY79 and NLSY79 Children and Young Adult data files.

Selected Publications

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a searchable bibliography of all known research examining data from the NLSY97 and the other BLS National Longitudinal Surveys.


Classen TJ, Hokayem C. Childhood influences on youth obesity. Economics and Human Biology 2005;3(2):165-187.

Classen TJ. Measures of the intergenerational transmission of body mass index between mothers and their children in the United States, 1981-2004. Economics and Human Biology 2010;8(1):30-43.

Smith PK, Bogin B, Bishai D. Are time preference and body mass index associated? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Economics and Human Biology 2005;3(2):259-270.