Educational Attainment & School Enrollment

Educational Attainment & School Enrollment

Created Variables

HGC_EVER: This XRND variable contains the highest grade ever completed updated through the respondent's most recent interview. These incorporate adjustments to prevent respondents from regressing in years of schooling when they take such actions as returning to school in a new field.

HGC_REVISED: These variables represent the highest grade completed by the respondent as of each interview date. These are created with some adjustments to keep people from regressing in years of schooling when they take such actions as returning to school in a new field.

ENROLLMT_STATUS_REVISED: These variables represent the respondent's enrollment status on May 5 of survey year. There should be little to no difference between the original and revised versions of this variable. They are simply produced by determining whether the respondent reported being enrolled in May of the survey year.


Important Information About Using Educational Attainment and School Enrollment Data

A review of the NLSY79 enrollment and grade attending and completed data found a number of inconsistencies, such as the highest grade attended or grade currently attended decreasing over time, and such. Revised 'Highest Grade Completed' and 'Enrollment Status' variables, which seek to clean up some of the inconsistencies, have been added to the data set. See Appendix 8 in the NLSY79 Codebook Supplement for a description of these revisions.

Information on NLSY79 respondents' educational experiences has been collected during each survey year. In addition, three special data collections conducted during 1980-1983 gathered the following for select universes: 

  • supplementary information on degrees and certifications received as of the 1980 survey
  • detailed information on the amount of time spent at school on each of the past seven days and the amount of time spent in various school-related activities, such as attending classes, studying, participating in other activities
  • high school course information gathered (directly from school records) during the 1980-1983 transcript surveys

Table 1 summarizes the major types of NLSY79 educational status and attainment variables and identifies the survey years during which such data were collected.

Table 1. Educational Attainment & School Enrollment Variables: 1979-2020

Variable Survey Years
Current School Enrollment Status
Currently attending or enrolled in school 1979-2018
Grade attending 1979-2018
Specific months R was attending regular school since last interview 1981-2016
Month/year last enrolled in school ((not enrolled) data users must compute months R was attending)) 1979-1998
Reason left school (not enrolled) 1979-2020
Any high school/college courses taken while in Armed Forces 1979-1985
Enrollment status as of May 1 survey year (Key/Created Variable) 1979-2006
Highest Grade Attended or Completed
Highest grade attended since last interview 1979-2020
Highest grade completed since last interview 1979-2020
Years of school completed while in the Armed Forces since last interview 1979-1985
Highest grade completed as of May 1 survey year (Key/Created Variable) 1979-2016
Type of High School Curriculum
Type of current/last school curriculum in grades 9-12 1979-1985
1st-8th high school subject during most recent enrollment; grades 9-12 1979
High school courses from the Transcript Surveys 1980-1983
Nature of high school program 1980
Major Field of Study in College
Major field of study current/last college attended 1979-1983
Major field of study most recent and 2nd/3rd most recent college attended 1984-1986, 1988-1990, and 1992-2018
College Status
Full time/part time status (in college last enrolled since 9/1 past year) 1979-1983
Full time/part time status most recent and 2nd/3rd most recent college 1984-1986, 1988-1990, and 1992-2018
Attainment of a High School Diploma and Other Degrees
Ever received degree/diploma 1979
Have high school diploma or equivalent 1979-2018
Have diploma or GED 1979-2018
Month/year received diploma or GED 1979-2018
Received degree since last interview 1980-1984 and 1989-2018
Received more than one college degree since last interview 1981-1984
Diploma/degree received during or since recent Armed Forces enlistment 1979-1985
Highest degree ever received (including high school diploma) 1988-2018
Month/year received degree/highest degree 1979-1980 and 1988-2018
Types of diplomas/college degrees received 1979-1984
Types of diplomas/college degrees received during or since recent enlistment 1979-1985
Name and Geographic Location (Available on Restricted Geocode Release)
State location of current/last college attended 1980-1983
Location of most recent college(s) attended (available on Geocode release through 2004)  1984-1986, 1988-1990, and 1992-2018
FICE/UNITID code of most recent and 2nd/3rd most recent college attended 1984-1986, 1988-1990, and 1992-2018
College Loans
Educational loan received for this year's college expenses 1979-1983
Educational loan received to cover most recent and 2nd/3rd most recent college attended 1984-1986, 1988-1990, and 1992-2018
Total amount of educational loans: most recent and 2nd/3rd most recent college attended 1984-1986, 1988-1990, and 1992-2018
Household/Family Members
Highest grade completed for each household member 1979-2016
Highest grade completed for R's mother, father, oldest sibling 1979
Highest grade completed for R's current or most recent spouse 1979-1982
Highest grade completed for all siblings 1993

Armed Forces Sample: During the 1979-1985 surveys, respondents who had served in the Armed Forces since the last interview or were serving at the current interview date were asked a series of questions on high school or college courses taken and years of school completed while in the Armed Forces.

Related Topics: Additional information on schooling as it relates to other areas of the respondent's life can be found in the following sections:


Survey Instruments and Documentation Core education questions are found in the yearly questionnaires in the "Regular Schooling" sections (see Section 3 or 4) and the "Military" sections (Section 7 [1979], Section 6 [1980], Section 5 [1981], and Section 4 [1982-85]). "Regular school" provides credit toward an academic degree or diploma. Sections 14 and 12 of, respectively, the 1979 and 1980 questionnaires collected supplementary information on the types of degrees and other certifications that the respondent had obtained. 
Areas of Interest
  • Most variables related to schooling are located in the "School," "Degrees & Certificates," "Military," or "Misc. xxxx" areas of interest. 
  • The yearly created variables on enrollment status and highest grade completed are found in the "Key Variables" area of interest as is the HGC_EVER XRND variable. 
  • The special high school course information has been placed in "Transcript Survey," while the 1981 time use data (which tracked hours and minutes spent at various major activities, including school) is located in "Time Use." 
  • Family and household member educational attainment variables are found, respectively, in the "Family Background" and "Household Record" areas of interest. 
  • The "Geocode" and "FICE" areas of interest on the Geocode CD contain data on the specific colleges attended (FICE codes).