Save the National Longitudinal Surveys

From: Randall Olsen, Director of CHRR; Audrey Light, PI of the NLSY79; Dan Black, PI of the NLSY97

The National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) program faces the biggest threat in its 47-year history as a result of reductions in the 2012 and 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) budgets. The cuts will cripple our ability to collect and disseminate data from April 2012 onward.

As detailed below, your immediate action can help save the NLS.

UPDATE: Friday March 2, 2012

The BLS announced the restoration of funding for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2012. We appreciate the invaluable support of the users who helped make this happen. Your continued support is still needed as BLS considers the long terms plans for the NLS program in Fiscal Year 2013 and beyond.

Overview of the crisis

  • We recently learned that we will lose $4.7 million (80% of our remaining budget) in the current fiscal year and $6 million (55% of our annual NLS budget from BLS) in fiscal year 2013.
  • BLS received virtually the same congressional appropriation in fiscal year 2012 as in 2011, and expects a $9.1 million increase in 2013. Despite avoiding a hit to its overall budget, BLS decided to reduce previously-committed funding to the NLS.
  • BLS mistakenly believes the NLS program can absorb this massive budget cut by (a) moving to triennial fielding of the NLSY79 and NLSY97; (b) dropping the Hispanic over-samples in both surveys; and (c) eliminating created event history variables. In fact, we will be unable to carry out these scaled-back activities: the cuts leave us with insufficient funds to field additional rounds of the NLSY79 and NLSY97, or to complete even the most rudimentary data releases.
  • Even if funding is raised to the level necessary to conduct triennial fielding as envisioned by BLS, usability impacts will be severe. The loss of the Hispanic over-samples will effectively eliminate the ability to compare labor market experiences of Hispanics and non-Hispanics. The lack of created event history variables will lead to a loss of longitudinal consistency and will eliminate many research uses of the NLS. The NLSY79 Child/Young Adult survey will be placed in the same jeopardy as the NLSY79. Triennial fielding will create serious respondent recall problems and degrade data quality.

What we ask of you

  • Please email:
  • Labor Secretary - Hilda Solis (
  • Acting BLS Commissioner - John Galvin (
  • In your email(s), ask that BLS restore $4.7 million in funding for fiscal year 2012 and that future funding be sufficient to maintain a biennial interview schedule for both the NLSY79 and NLSY97. We recommend that you also provide a brief statement about the NLS program's value to social scientists and policy makers.
  • This link provides a short-cut to the email addresses of Secretary Solis and Acting Commissioner Galvin:
    email Solis and Galvin
  • Please send identical emails to your U.S. senators ( and representative (
  • If you prefer not to craft your own message, cut-and-paste this text into the body of your email(s):

As a member of the social science research community, I urge you to restore $4.7 million in funding for the NLS in 2012, and to provide sufficient future funding to maintain a biennial interval schedule for both the NLSY79 and NLSY97. These surveys are essential to our understanding of how labor market experiences evolve over the life-cycle, and how labor market outcomes differ for Hispanics and non-Hispanics. The proposed BLS budget cuts will be devastating to the social science research community and to policy makers who rely on our findings.

  • Timing is critical: we need immediate restoration of funding for 2012 to avoid suspension of work and widespread layoffs of NLS staff.

Thank you for your support of the NLS!

We represent CHRR (Center for Human Resource Research) at The Ohio State University. We conduct the NLS under a contract with BLS.

Thank you,
Randall Olsen, Director of CHRR
Audrey Light, PI of the NLSY79
Dan Black, PI of the NLSY97