Attitudes & Expectations


The NLSY79 has collected information on respondents' perceptions or expectations about the future. Questions were asked in the early years about respondents' expectations for their educational, occupational, and marital futures. Fertility expectation questions have been asked in most survey years. Military expectation questions were asked each year from 1979-85. Finally, retirement expectation questions were added in 2006. Expectation questions are outlined in Table 2.

Table 2. NLSY79 Expectations Questions

Year Education Occupation Fertility1 Military Marital Retirement2
1979 R01718. In school in 5 years? R00235. Highest grade expected R01700. - R01708. Age 35 occupational plans R01719. - R01721. Work expectations in 5 years Number of children expected Timing of next child R00431. Intent to enlist R00407. Length of service expected (Rs in military) R01716. Married in 5 years? R01717. Age expect to marry  
1980   R03289. - R03290. Age 35 occupational plans R02651. Time will stay in current job   R02357. Intent to enlist R02472. Length of service    
1981 R04197. Highest grade expected R05303. - R05304. Age 35 occupational plans R04471. Time will stay in current job   R04238. Intent to enlist R04353. Length of service R06562. Married in 1 year? (unmarried Rs)  
1982 R06668. Highest grade expected R08082. - R08090. Age 35 occupational plans R07029. Time will stay in current job Number of children Timing of next child R06711. Intent to enlist R06853. Length of service    
1983   R10448., R10449. Age 35 occupational plans Number of children Timing of next child R09128. Intent to enlist R09271. Length of service    
1984   R14271., R14272. Age 35 occupational plans Number of children Timing of next child R11215. Intent to enlist R12370. Length of service    
1985     Number of children Timing of next child R16163. Intent to enlist R16322. Length of service    
1986-2012     Number of children Timing of next child      

Predicted age of retirement

Probabilty working age 62/65/67

Probability health will limit work (2014-2016 only)

Probabilty  leaving inheritance (2014-2016 only)

Probability living to age 75/85     (2014-2016 only)

Probability moving to nursing home (2014-2016 only)


1 Reference numbers are not provided because multiple questions were asked of different universes in the same survey year. For example, see R37881. in 1992 for total number of children expected and R00155. in 1979 for expected timing of next child.

2 Reference numbers are not provided because questions were asked in multiple years.

Related Information: For measures of job satisfaction, users should consult the topical subsection Job Satisfaction. Additional information related to health can be found in the Health section. Items capturing the quality of marital relationships can be found in the Marital Status, Transitions & Attitudes section.

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: The NLSY79 children and young adults have been asked a number of attitude and expectation questions over time. Since 1994, the young adults were asked the same women's roles questions as the NLSY79 Main Youth were asked.

The NLSY97 Youth Questionnaire collects information about the respondents' perceptions of the justice system in each round. The round 1 NLSY97 survey attempted to ascertain the impact that school has had on the feelings of well-being experienced by various youths. Respondents who were enrolled at the time of the survey were asked to agree or disagree with statements regarding their school's environment and their teachers. In round 1 respondents were also asked about their perception of their peers' activities and behaviors.

The Mature Women and Young Women were asked about their attitudes toward working roles. The NLSY97 respondents, the Young Women, and Young Men have all answered questions about their educational and employment expectations for the future; however, the specific questions and reference periods have varied widely. For more precise details about the content of each survey, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide using the tabs above for more information.


Menaghan, Elizabeth G. "The Impact of Occupational and Economic Pressures on Young Mothers' Self-Esteem: Evidence from the NLSY." Presented: Annual Meetings of the Society for the Sociological Study of Social Problems, Washington, D.C., August 9, 1990.

Pearlin, Leonard I.; Lieberman, Morton A.; Menaghan, Elizabeth G.; and Mullan, Joseph T. "The Stress Process." Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 22 (December):  337-353, 1981.

Rosenberg, Morris. Society and the Adolescent Self-Image. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965.

Rotter, Julian B. "Generalized Expectancies for Internal Versus External Control of Reinforcement." Psychological Monographs General and Applied, 80 (1, Whole No. 609), 1966.

Strocchia-Rivera, Lenore. Self-Esteem and Educational Aspirations as Antecedents of Adolescent Unmarried Motherhood. Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin, 1988.

Survey Instruments and Documentation Interested readers should examine Section 20 in the 1979 questionnaire on "Family Attitudes" and Section 22 on "Aspirations and Expectations" for the majority of attitude and expectations questions collected in that survey year. The women's role items were also collected in the 1982 questionnaire (Section 15), the 1987 questionnaire (Section 20), and in the "Income and Assets" section of 2004 questionnaire. Job aspirations can be found in questionnaire sections 18 (1980), 20 (1981), 17 (1982), 15 (1983), and 16 (1984). The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale items can be found in Section 14 of the 1980 questionnaire, Section 15 of the 1987 questionnaire, and Section 11 of the 2006 questionnaire. The health sections of the 1985 (Section 12) and 1992 (Section 11) questionnaires collect the sociability and Pearlin Mastery Scale items, respectively.
Areas of Interest Most of the variables described in this section can be found in the "Attitude" area of interest. Fertility expectations are located in the "Children," "Birth Record," and "Birth Record xxxx" areas of interest, and military expectations can be found in the "Military" area of interest. Users can find the sociability measure in the "Health" area of interest.