The National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 (NLS:72) began with the collection of base-year survey data from a sample of about 19,000 high school seniors in the spring of 1972. In each of the years 1973, 1974, 1976, 1979, and 1986, a follow-up survey of these students was conducted. NLS:72 was designed to provide the education community with information on the transitions of young adults from high school through postsecondary education and the workplace.
In addition to the follow-ups, a number of supplemental data collection efforts were made. For example, a Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS) was conducted in 1984; in 1986, the fifth follow-up included a supplement for those who became teachers.
The sample design for NLS:72 was a stratified, two-stage probability sample of 12th-grade students from all schools, public and private, in the 50 states and the District of Columbia during the 1971–72 school year. During the first stage of sampling, about 1,070 schools were selected for participation in the base-year survey. As many as 18 students were selected at random from each of the sample schools. The sizes of both the school and student samples were increased during the first follow-up survey. Beginning with the first follow-up and continuing through the fourth follow-up, about 1,300 schools participated in the survey and slightly fewer than 23,500 students were sampled. The unweighted response rates for each of the different rounds of data collection were 80 percent or higher.
Sample retention rates across the survey years were quite high. For example, of the individuals responding to the base-year questionnaire, the percentages who responded to the first, second, third, and fourth follow-up questionnaires were about 94, 93, 89, and 83 percent, respectively. The fifth follow-up took its sample from students who had participated in at least one of the prior surveys. In all, 91.7 percent of participants had responded to at least five of the six surveys, and 62.1 percent had responded to all six.
Further information on NLS:72 may be obtained from
Longitudinal Surveys Branch
Sample Surveys Division
National Center for Education Statistics
550 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20202