This study uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth--1979 cohort (NLSY79). The NLSY79 is a large, nationally representative, omnibus survey sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over 12,000 youths ages 14-22 were first interviewed in 1979. They have been re-interviewed annually through 1994 and biennially since. The ongoing sample includes over-samples of blacks and Hispanics. The sample has seen remarkably low attrition with over 84 percent having been interviewed in 1998 (the most recent year of data available at the time of this study).
The NLSY79 focuses on labor market behavior with information collected on aspects of the respondents' lives which are thought to influence, or be influenced by, their labor market behavior. The survey routinely collects information on education, job training, marriage, fertility, household composition, health status, income, and assets. In selected years, additional information on such things as alcohol consumption and drug usage has been collected.
The advantage of using the NLSY79 is the availability of measures of long-term adult outcomes in a continuous context. The youngest respondent in the NLSY79 turned 34 in 1998. Over the years of the survey, we see the respondents (generally) complete their education, develop their careers, and form families. Also, we have observations of certain behaviors such as alcohol use and drug use at multiple points in time.
Due to data limitations, we restrict our measures of adolescent risky behaviors to retrospective reports on age of initiation. The one exception to this is in reports of delinquent and criminal behaviors. In this case, questions were included in 1980, when the respondents were 15-23 years old. While the analysis must be limited in certain ways, the NLSY79 strength is its inclusion of a wide variety of long-term adult outcomes.