Interview Methods

Interview Methods

This section provides the following information on interview methods:

Interview Procedures for Main Youth Survey

Many users may be most interested in current (through round 20) interview procedures; round 1 procedures (which involved many steps not needed in subsequent rounds) are also provided here as background information.

Current Interview Procedures (Rounds 2 through Present)

The interviews are conducted each round using a CAPI (computer-assisted personal interview) instrument, administered by an interviewer with a laptop computer. Computer software automatically guides interviewers through an electronic questionnaire, selecting the next question based on a respondent's answers. The program also prevents interviewers from entering invalid values and warns interviewers about implausible answers. A set of checks within the CAPI system lowers the probability of inconsistent data both during an interview and over time. The preferred mode of interview is in person. When an interview is conducted in person, during sensitive portions of the interview, the respondents enter their answers directly into the laptop rather than interacting with the interviewer. This self-administered portion, called ACASI, includes an audio option so that the respondents can listen to the questions and answers being read via headphones if they prefer. The audio component theoretically improves response quality when the respondent's literacy is in question. In some cases, due to the location of the respondent or the respondents' reluctance to be interviewed in person, interviews are conducted by phone. In this case the interviewer must administer the SAQ sections. Table 1 shows the number of in-person and telephone interviews for each round. 

Table 1. NLSY97 Interview Mode

Year Personal Interviews
(# and %)
Telephone Interviews
(# and %)
Info Unavailable Total Interviewed Not
R1 8700 96.8% 284 3.2% -- -- 8984 -- -- --
R2 7924 94.5 460 5.5 2 a 8386 93.3% 598 6.7%
R3 7552 92.0 655 8.0 1 a 8208 91.4 776 8.6
R4 7372 91.2 706 8.7 2 a 8080 89.9 904 10.1
R5 7215 91.5 664 8.4 2 a 7882 87.7 1102 12.3
R6 6614 83.8 1281 16.2 1 -- 7896 87.9 1088 12.1
R7 6825 88.0 927 12.0 2 a 7754 86.3 1230 13.7
R8 6577 87.7 925 12.3 2 a 7502 83.5 1482 16.5
R9 6348 86.5 989 13.5 1 a 7338 81.7 1646 18.3
R10 6663 88.2 894 11.8 2 a 7559 84.1 1425 15.9
R11 6484 87.4 932 12.6 2 a 7418 82.6 1566 17.4
R12 6417 85.7 1072 14.3 1 a 7490 83.4 1494 16.6
R13 6494 85.9 1064 14.1 1 a 7559 84.1 1425 15.9
R14 6648 88.9 826 11.0 4 a 7479 83.2 1505 16.8
R15 6527 87.9 895 12.1 1 a 7423 82.6 1561 17.4
R16 6012 84.2 1128 15.8 1 a 7141 79.5 1843 20.5
R17 5208 73.3 1894 26.7 1 a 7103 79.0 1881 21.0
R18 702 10.4 6030 89.5 2 a 6734 75.0 2250 25.0
R19 298 4.2 6644 95.6 5 .1% 6947 77.3 2037 22.7
R20 172 2.6 6533 97.3 8 .1% 6713 74.7 2271 25.3
NOTE: Table created using the variable YIR-560. Telephone was mode of interview for 223 round 1 parent interviews.
aLess than 0.05%.

Round 1 Procedures and Instruments

Screener, Household Roster, and Nonresident Roster Questionnaire: This instrument was initially administered to a member of each household selected for sampling in the NLSY97 survey areas. It was completed by a household resident age 18 or older, referred to as the household informant. This questionnaire was used to identify youths potentially eligible for the NLSY97 survey and/or the administration of the computer adaptive version of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (CAT-ASVAB), a military enlistment test (see Administration of the CAT-ASVAB for more information). In general, eligibility for either group was dependent on the youth's age and, in some sample areas, on the youth's race or ethnicity. Sample Design & Screening Process provides more detailed information about the precise age and race/ethnicity requirements. This instrument comprised four sections: the simple screener, extended screener, household roster, and nonresident roster, administered in that order and described below. Question names for the simple and extended screeners begin with "SE," household roster questions begin with "SH," and nonresident roster questions begin with "SN."

The simple screener section was first administered at each household in the sample areas to identify potentially eligible sample members. The simple screener collected the name and birth date or age of each person who could be linked to the household (see Sample Design & Screening Process for more information).  If the household contained a youth potentially eligible for the NLSY97 or the administration of the CAT-ASVAB, the household informant completed the extended screener. This section collected the gender and race/ethnicity of each person in the household and the year in school the potentially eligible youth was currently attending, if any. Race and ethnicity were used in supplemental sample areas as further criteria for NLSY97 eligibility; in certain cases, grade in school affected eligibility for the administration of the CAT-ASVAB. If the household contained a youth eligible only for the administration of the CAT-ASVAB, the interviewer solicited his or her participation. If the household included one or more youths potentially eligible for the NLSY97, the interview continued with an extensive two-part roster.

The household informant first answered the questions in the household roster section of the Screener, Household Roster, and Nonresident Roster Questionnaire. This section established the relationships between household occupants and collected basic demographic information (e.g., marital status, highest grade of schooling completed, employment status) for all household members, including any NLSY97-eligible youths. After the roster was created, one parent of the sample youth was chosen from the list of household occupants and asked to participate in the Parent Questionnaire. Finally, the household informant was administered the nonresident roster section, which gathered data on members of the youth's immediate family (e.g., biological, adoptive, or stepparents; biological or adoptive siblings; spouse; biological children; parent of the youth's biological children) who lived elsewhere at the survey date.

Choice of household informant: To identify youths potentially eligible for the NLSY97, the screener collected data from selected households within a sample area. A single member of the household, designated as the household informant, was asked to provide certain information on persons who usually resided in the household. To ensure more accurate reporting of these data, the NLSY97 required the household informant to be age 18 or older and to consider the selected household his or her usual place of residence. 

Bilingual interviewing: To ensure that accurate data were collected from Spanish-speaking respondents, CHRR prepared both English and Spanish versions of all survey instruments, and NORC employed bilingual Spanish-speaking interviewers to administer the Spanish version to those requesting it. During the initial round, the Spanish version of the questionnaire was requested by 297 responding parents and 96 NLSY97 youths.

Screen and Go: In round 1, use of the computer-assisted personal interviewing system (CAPI) allowed for a screen and go method of screening households.  When an NLSY97-eligible youth was identified in the simple screener portion of the interview, information from the remainder of the Screener, Household Roster, and Nonresident Roster Questionnaire was collected. Selected data (e.g., basic demographic information, a roster of household members) were then transferred automatically into the Parent and Youth Questionnaires for verification and use during the interview. Therefore, the interviewer could administer the parent or the youth portion of the NLSY97 immediately. It was expected that this would increase the likelihood that eligible youths would participate in the survey since the number of visits interviewers had to make to a household decreased.

However, in some cases, the respondents (parent and youth) were not available to participate in the parent and youth interviews immediately after screening. In these cases, a screen and come back method was utilized, in which the interviewer made an appointment to return to the household to administer the Youth and Parent Questionnaires at a convenient time.

Paper Screener: During round 1, the interviewers had the option of using a paper screener to perform the initial screening of the household. The paper screener collected the same basic information as the initial CAPI screener. This was useful in cases where the simple screener information could not be collected using CAPI (e.g., weather conditions, computer battery life, dangerous neighborhood) and also gave the interviewer an alternative medium for collecting the initial screener data. Like the screen and go model, the paper screener was designed to determine if anyone residing in the housing unit was eligible for either the NLSY97 or the administration of the CAT-ASVAB. If a youth was identified as being potentially eligible for the NLSY97, the information from the paper screener was entered into CAPI. The interviewer could then continue in CAPI with the Screener, Household Roster, and Nonresident Roster Questionnaire and the Youth and Parent Questionnaires. Approximately 28,000 paper screeners were administered, including those used for the screen and come back method described above.

Proxy Screener: In cases where a round 1 interviewer made several visits to a household and still could not contact household members to administer the initial screener, a proxy screener was administered to an adult living either next door to or directly across from the selected housing unit. Before the interviewer could administer a proxy screener, at least three attempts were made by the interviewer, on different days and at different times, to contact anyone in the selected housing unit.

The purpose of the proxy screener, a paper questionnaire, was to assess whether a person eligible for the NLSY97 resided in the household. In particular, the proxy screener was designed to determine the best time to establish contact with a household member, whether or not a person between the ages of 8 and 28 currently lived in the household, and the steps required to contact a household member. The broad 8-28 age range was intended to ensure that youths close to the endpoints of the actual age range were not missed due to inaccurate reporting. If the proxy screener indicated that none of the household members were in the age range of 8 to 28, the screener was coded as a proxy screener and no more attempts were made to contact the household. However, if the proxy informant was unable to definitively deny the presence of residents ages 8-28, the interviewer was instructed to return as many times as reasonable and necessary to administer the simple screener and, if appropriate, the remainder of the survey instruments. A total of 5,175 proxy screeners determined that no one between ages 8 and 28 lived in the household.

Gatekeepers: The gatekeeper disposition code was used in cases where the interviewer could not gain direct access to the sample household, such as a high-rise building with a locked door where access was denied by a building manager or a gated housing community where the entry guard refused entrance. In these cases, the interviewer asked the gatekeeper or other community official whether anyone between the ages of 8 and 28 lived in the sample households. If the gatekeeper was unable to definitively deny the presence of household members ages 8-28, the interviewer then attempted to gain access to the household in order to complete the Screener, Household Roster, and Nonresident Roster Questionnaire and was not permitted to use this disposition code. A total of 4,055 cases were closed with a gatekeeper disposition code after the interviewer determined that no one between ages 8 and 28 lived in the household. This code was mainly used in gated housing communities for senior citizens.

Telephone Screener: In rare cases, the simple screener was conducted by telephone at the conclusion of the field period. A total of 931 telephone screeners were administered. Instances in which the housing unit was contacted by telephone include:

  1. The proxy screener revealed a person between the ages of 8 and 28 living in the household and the interviewer was unable to contact anyone in the housing unit on three subsequent in-person visits; or
  2. The interviewer made three in-person visits but was unable to find a neighbor to whom he or she could administer the proxy screener.

The full Screener, Household Roster, and Nonresident Roster Questionnaire was also administered by telephone in rare instances. Situations in which the full instrument was conducted by telephone include:

  1. After completing the paper screener, the interviewer was unable to contact anyone in the housing unit to complete the full extended screener. At least three in-person contacts must have been attempted before the telephone contact was approved.
  2. The sample housing unit was inside a residential community to which the interviewer was barred access by the community (e.g., housing board authority).  Prior to the telephone interview, the correct person must have been contacted about gaining access at least three times (in person, by telephone, or by letter).

Youth Questionnaire and Parent Questionnaire: When the Screener, Household Roster, and Nonresident Roster Questionnaire was complete, any NLSY97-eligible youth(s) and one of the youth's parents (the responding parent) were interviewed using CAPI (See Parent Questionnaire section for more information on parent data). Prior to these interviews, selected data (e.g., basic demographic information, a roster of household members) were automatically transferred into the Parent Questionnaire and the Youth Questionnaire for verification and use during the interviews.  Consequently, the interviewer was able to administer the parent or the youth portion of the NLSY97 immediately. CAPI interviews were conducted in either English or Spanish; parent and youth respondents could choose either version.

In round 1, the NLSY97 youth respondent(s) and responding parent(s) in the household are listed on the household roster, but they are referred to as "Household Member #" in the same way as noninterviewed household members. The youth respondent's position on the household roster can be identified by using the variable YOUTH_HHID.01. The responding parent's position on the roster is provided in PARYOUTH_PARENTID. See Household Composition for further discussion of the structure and use of the household roster.