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June 7 -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) invites public comments to OMB by July 7, 2021 on the proposed design of Round 20 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97).
The main NLSY97 sample includes 8,984 respondents who were born in the years 1980 through 1984 and lived in the United States when the survey began in 1997.  Sample selection was based on information provided during the first round of interviews.  This cohort is a representative national sample of the target population of young adults.  The sample includes an overrepresentation of blacks and Hispanics to facilitate statistically reliable analyses of these racial and ethnic groups.  Appropriate weights are provided so that the sample components can be combined in a manner to aggregate to the overall U.S. population of the same ages.
The proposed collection will allow the NLSY97 to continue serving its broad purpose as a vital source of labor market information, by adding a 20th round to the survey’s longitudinal dataset.  The NLSY97 is an omnibus study designed to understand labor market outcomes and serves a variety of labor market-related research interests.  Among the major purposes of its collection is to examine the transition from school to the labor market and into adulthood.  Additional major purposes fall into several categories as elaborated in attachment 2: (1) to explore factors affecting an individual’s orientation to the labor market and its long- and short-term effects on labor market outcomes; (2) to explore factors affecting an individual’s educational progress and its various repercussions in the labor market; (3) to study characteristics of the work environment experienced by individuals and the interplay between these characteristics and other labor market outcomes; (4) to examine race, sex, and ethnicity differences in employment and earnings; (5) to explore the relationships between economic and social factors, family transitions, and well-being; (6) to examine associations between geographic mobility, local and national levels of economic activity, and social, economic, and demographic characteristics of respondents and their families; and (7) to measure gross changes in the labor market status of adults in the reference population.  In addition, the NLSY97 can be used to meet the data collection and research needs of various government agencies that have been interested in the relationships between child and maternal health, other child outcomes, drug and alcohol use, juvenile deviant behavior and education, employment, and family experiences.

In Round 20, NLS proposes to collect data primarily by telephone, as in Rounds 18 and 19.  While historically an in-person survey, the NLSY97 was converted to a predominantly telephone survey in Round 18, when approximately 90 percent of interviews were completed by telephone.  This reflected a dramatic increase over Rounds 16 and 17, in which 15 and 27 percent were completed by telephone, respectively.  In Round 19, the ability to collect information over the phone was a key factor in the survey’s ability to maintain response rates during the Coronavirus pandemic.  Approximately 96 percent were collected via telephone in Round 19.  

If abatement of the pandemic allows it, NLS expects to supplement telephone interviewing with in-person contacts as a non-response follow-up strategy for a small number of cases that are identified by special circumstances, such as difficulty locating a respondent without in-person efforts, respondent’s lack of a telephone, or prison cases where only an in-person interview is approved. In-person interviewing has been deployed similarly in NLS surveys for many years.  NLS does not propose to use self-administered modes in Round 20, but NLS will be evaluating the results of a separate collection effort administered via a web application between Rounds 19 and 20 for potential use in future rounds.

The frequency of transitions continues to be an important factor in how the NLSY97 determines the appropriate collection frequency.  It was a key reason that the survey fielded a short, interim supplement between Round 19 and Round 20.  The interim supplement was designed to capture the unique and rapidly changing circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic with regard to the sample members’ employment, health and childcare.  As Round 20 approaches with expectations of large changes due to the pandemic’s impacts, it is important to capture those changing circumstances again, as well as to collect the many measures that are ordinarily scheduled for biennial collection.

In Round 20, we have made additions to the questionnaire to collect some of the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the NLSY97 cohort. Though the field period for Round 19 went into July 2020, almost 90 percent of interviews were conducted before March 2020. A supplemental survey was conducted in spring 2021 to ask about effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on employment and health, but it was not extensive enough to collect information by job that could be integrated into the NLSY97 employment event history.  

In addition, we have added a few items on the value of on-going jobs that we believe will let researchers study labor market outcomes such as compensating differentials and job search over the lifecycle. We have added questions on criminal background checks that, with the NLSY97 event histories on employment and interaction with the criminal justice system, will help researchers study the labor market effects of having a criminal record. In addition, we have added questions on internet access and respondents’ experiences with the supplemental Coronavirus survey that may help inform future survey methodology for the NLSY97. We have streamlined the questionnaire where possible to make room for the additional items about the Coronavirus pandemic.
NLSY97 webpage: https://www.bls.gov/nls/nlsy97.htm  
NLSY97 Round 20 proposal to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202102-1220-006 Click on IC List for data collection instruments, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation
Proposed changes in NLSY97 questionnaire for Round 20: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/DownloadDocument?objectID=111403100
FR notice inviting comments to OMB: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/06/07/2021-11811/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-for-omb-review-comment-request-national
Point of contact: NLS_INFO@bls.gov   
For AEA members wishing to provide comments to OMB, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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