History of the NLS-72


The National Longitudinal Study of 1972 (NLS-72) was started in 1972 by the U.S. Department of Education. Across the nation, high school students from the senior class of 1972 were surveyed about their educational experiences. These same students were followed and surveyed every few years for nearly 15 years to learn about their post-high school experiences like college and career outcomes.


It’s been nearly 40 years since NLS-72 students were surveyed, and participants are now in their 60s and 70s. The sixth follow-up round will collect information from NLS-72 participants to learn about how their life experiences have shaped their health and well-being later in life.

NLS-72 history

Now, the NLS-72 is funded by the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health. The information that NLS-72 collects is used to provide important statistics about education, work status, and community involvement. Researchers, legislators, and community members use the information collected in the NLS-72 to inform policy decisions, develop programs, and increase knowledge about educational reform.

Research related to the NLS-72

These are a few of the important questions that data from NLS-72 has helped answer:

  • What do students do after leaving high school?
  • How do people’s life experiences and career paths after high school differ across the U.S.?
  • How do people’s educational experiences influence their life experiences and career outcomes?


Researchers have used the NLS-72 data to publish articles that contribute to community development and educational policy changes. Here are just a few of these important studies:


Trends Among High School Seniors 1972-2004 (2008)


The Importance of Child-Care Characteristics to Choice of Care (1996) 


The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination (1995) 


The Effect of Military Service on Educational, Occupational, and Income Attainment (1996)


Match Quality, New Information, and Marital Dissolution” by Yoram Weiss and Robert J. Willis (1997)


Educational Achievement and Black-White Inequality (2001)


Leadership Skills and Wages (2005)