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High School and Beyond (HS&B) Longitudinal Study


The HS&B provides information on the educational, vocational, and personal development of young people as they move from high school into postsecondary education or the workforce and then into adult life. The initial longitudinal study (NLS:72) laid the groundwork for comparison with HS&B, while successive studies (NELS:88 and ELS:2002) provide a basis for further comparisons. NLS:72 recorded the economic and social conditions surrounding high school seniors in 1972 and, within that context, their hopes and plans; subsequently, it measured outcomes while also observing the intervening processes. Data on 1980 seniors from the HS&B base-year survey are directly comparable to NLS:72 data on 1972 seniors. With the follow-up data, trend comparisons can be made for the period 1972 to 1984. HS&B permits researchers to further monitor change by, for example, measuring the economic returns of postsecondary education for minorities and delineating the need for financial aid.

By following adolescents at an earlier age (beginning in eighth grade) and into the 21st century, NELS:88 expands the base of knowledge established in the NLS:72 and HS&B studies. NELS:88 first follow-up data provide a comparison point to high school sophomores 10 years earlier, as studied in HS&B; the second follow-up data allow trend comparisons of the high school class of 1992 with the 1980 seniors studied in the HS&B. The third follow-up allows comparisons with HS&B related to postsecondary outcomes. (Please see NELS chapter for detailed information on NELS:88.)

ELS:2002 further measures educational processes and outcomes, especially as such data pertain to student learning, predictors of dropping out, and high school effects on studentsí access to, and success in, postsecondary education and the workforce. Comparisons can be made between high school sophomores in 1980 and in 2002, and between high school seniors in 1980 and in 2004 (the first follow-up of ELS:2002) using the HS&B and ELS:2002 studies. (Please see ELS chapter for detailed information on ELS:2002.)

By comparing the results of the HS&B and its three related longitudinal studies, researchers can determine how plans and outcomes differ in response to changing conditions, or remain the same despite such changes.

The HS&B allows both cross–sectional and longitudinal analyses of the students who were sophomores or seniors in 1980. The data are used to address issues of educational attainment, employment, family formation, personal values, and community activities since 1980. For example, a major study on high school dropouts used HS&B data to demonstrate that a large number of dropouts return to school and earn a high school diploma or an equivalency certificate. Other examples of issues and questions that can be addressed are as follows:

  • How, when, and why do students enroll in postsecondary education institutions?
  • Do students who, while in high school, expect to complete the baccalaureate degree actually do so?
  • How has the percentage of recent graduates from a given cohort who enter the workforce in their field changed over the past years?
  • What are the long-term effects of not completing high school in the traditional way? How do employment and earnings event histories of traditional high school graduates differ from those of students who do not finish high school in the traditional manner?
  • Do individuals who attend college earn more than those who do not attend college? What is the effect of student financial aid?
  • What percentage of college graduates is eligible or qualified to enter a public service profession, such as teaching? 
  • How many college graduates enter the workforce full time in the area for which they are qualified?
  • How, and in what ways, do public and private schools differ?