Interviews of the NLS of Mature women and the NLS of Young women began in the mid-1960s because the U.S. Department of Labor was interested in studying the employment patters of these two groups of women. The NLS of Mature women was a group of women in their 30s and early 40s, many of whom were reentering the workforce and balancing the roles of homemaker, mother and labor force participants. The NLS of Young women was comprised of women in their teen and early 20s who were completing school making initial career and job decisions, and starting families. Respondents in the mature and young women's cohorts continue to be interviewed on a biennial basis, and have been interviewed for over 3 decades.
Interviews started in 1967 for the NLS mature women, a group of 5,083 women ages 20 to 44. Their longitudinal record encompasses, for many, the reentry into the labor market at middle age after child rearing as well as retirement decisions.
In 1968, interviews were initiated with the NLS young women, a cohort of 5,159 women ages 14 to 24. At that time, many were leaving their parent's home, making initial career and job decisions, and beginning families of their own. Now in their mid-forties to fifties, these women too are beginning to contemplate retirement issues. Others face choices regarding labor force attachments as, for many, their children leave the home.
A unique aspect of the original cohorts sample design allows for intrahousehold comparisons using members from different cohorts. At the time samples were drawn, half of the mature women's cohorts and a third of the men as well as three-quarters of both the young men and young women cohorts shared a household with another cohort member. This allows for intergeneration studies such as income and time transfers, economic linkages among family members, and the examination of how family stability affects socioeconomic success.
Surveys of the women's cohorts have collected three basic types of information: (1) Core data on each respondent's work and nonwork experiences, training investments, school, (including a separate survey of respondent's high schools,) family income and assets, physical well-being, and geographic residence; (2) Background information on her marital and fertility history; and (3) supplementary data specific to the age, stage of life or labor market attachment of the cohort (for example, household responsibilities, child care arrangements, retirement plans, volunteer work.)