At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Provides data on children’s body mass index.
  • Longitudinal survey of children, adolescents, and young adults, which can be linked to longitudinal information about the characteristics and behaviors of their mothers.
  • Provides basic information about participants' sleep and physical activity, including activity at work and sedentary behavior.



To collect data about demographics, health, and development of children and their mothers in the United States (U.S.).

Target Population

Children and adolescents in the U.S. who were born to women who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79).


Began in 1986. Conducted biennially. Most recent year available is 2014.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Funding provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Special Note(s)

See also: National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) .

Participating children were born to mothers who participated in the NLSY79. The collection of data on these children began in 1986 with a battery of cognitive, social, emotional, and physiological assessments administered to the NLSY79 mothers. These biennial assessments are administered primarily in person. Beginning in 1988, children ages 10 years and older have answered a self-administered set of questions about family, friends, jobs, school, after-school activities, religious attendance, smoking, alcohol and drug use, and other topics. Starting in 1994, children who reach age 15 years by December 31 of the survey year complete a questionnaire that is similar to the main NLSY79 and asks about work experiences, training, schooling, health, fertility, attitudes, and work expectations.


Sample Design

Longitudinal survey of children born to female NLSY79 respondents. Provides a nationally representative sample of children born to women born between 1957 and 1964 and living in the U.S. in 1979.

Sample Size

Approximately 11,500 participants, ranging in age from newborn to young adults in their late 30s in 2008.

Special Note(s)

Data were not collected for all eligible children of the NLSY79 mothers in every round of the survey. The sample of eligible children increased over time as more children were born to the women who participated in the NLSY79. These women are now nearing the end of their fertility cycle.

Key Variables


NameMethods of Assessment
Child’s date of birth and ageInterview/questionnaire
Disability (cognitive; equipment use; general; hearing; vision)Interview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Breakfast choices available at homeInterview/questionnaire
Parental rules regarding food choicesInterview/questionnaire
Participation in national school breakfast and lunch programs (reduced-price and free)Interview/questionnaire

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Light and vigorous physical activitySelf report
Neighborhood safetySelf report, proxy report
Parental rules limiting television viewingSelf report
Participation in sports/exerciseSelf report
Physical activity at work (adolescents ages 15 years and older)Self report (young adult survey only)
Sedentary activities (televison and computer use)Self report, proxy report


NameMethods of Assessment
Sleep continuity: Other (list variable)Interview/Questionnaire
Sleep disordered breathing: AsthmaInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disorders: Parasomnias/nightmares/night terrorsInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep disturbance and quality: Other (restlessness)Interview/Questionnaire
Sleep duration and quantity: Total sleep time during workdays/schooldaysInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep timing and regularity: Regularity of bedtimeInterview/Questionnaire
Sleep-related substance use: Use of sleep aidsInterview/Questionnaire
Social sleep environment: Other (type of residence)Interview/Questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Height and weightSelf report, proxy report, measured


NameMethods of Assessment
County, state, metropolitan statistical areaN/A

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)

Contact the Bureau of Labor Statistics to obtain access to restricted-use data (i.e., geocoded data files).


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

Data from the NLSY79 Children and Young Adults can be linked to data for their mothers who participated in the NLSY79.

Special Note(s)

Learn more about linking 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.


Powell LM, Bao YJ. Food prices, access to food outlets and child weight. Economics and Human Biology 2009;7(1):64-72.