For both employee and self-employed jobs, respondents' verbatim descriptors of their business or industry are coded using a three-digit Census code frame. Freelance jobs that do not qualify as self-employment are coded according to the type of work performed. (See Attachment 1: Census Industrial & Occupational Classification Codes for more details about the Census coding).

Important Information About Using Industry Data

  1. If the job has already been reported during a previous interview, that job's start-date information was already gathered during that previous interview. Respondents are read a description of the industry they reported as of the last interview date and asked if there was any change between the last interview date and the current interview date (or stop date for jobs that ended). If there is no difference, the job is assigned the same industry code; if the respondent reports a change, a new industry code is assigned for the current round. However, if the job has been previously reported and the respondent's total job length was less than 13 weeks, no additional information is collected in the current interview. In this situation the relevant data are available in the previous round's data. Note: In 2013, this criteria changed from "less than 13 weeks" to "less than 26 weeks." 
  2. Some respondents reported a job for the first time in round 2 that ended before the round 1 interview date. (These jobs should have been reported in round 1 but were overlooked by the respondent.) In these cases no industry information was collected.

Employee Jobs

The NLSY97 asks respondents age 14 or older to report the industry of each employer as of the job's start date. Respondent descriptors of the "kind of business or industry at the job's start date"--or, if the respondent is confused by the question, "what did they make or do where you worked"--are the basis of the industrial codes. For employee jobs lasting more than 13 weeks (starting in 2013, this was changed to "jobs lasting 26 weeks or more"), respondents also describe the business or industry as of the job's stop date (or at the survey date for on-going jobs). In addition, the interviewer codes whether the business was mainly manufacturing, retail trade, wholesale trade, or something else, requesting respondent help if necessary. Survey staff then coded each employer's industry.

Through Round 5, respondent industry and occupation were coded using the 1990 Census code frames. As part of the 2000 Decennial Census, the Census Bureau and BLS revised the industry and occupation code frames. The 2002 Census codes frames are now available for all rounds. The move to the new frame maintains comparability with the Current Population Survey (CPS) and other federal surveys, which have adopted the new frame. In addition, using historical code frames becomes increasingly problematic over time as new industries and occupations arise that are inadequately handled in the old frame. At the same time, changing frames can introduce disruption into the longitudinal record; it may not always be appropriate to change frames whenever updates occur. 

A second change underlies the shift to the 2002 code frame. While NORC had previously performed all coding to the 1990 code frames, the industry and occupation coding tasks were completed by the Census Bureau for the 2002 frames. There are documented differences in coding practices across the two organizations, so house effects in coding are likely to surface in the data. The process followed by the Census Bureau includes use of the respondents' reports of usual duties, title, etc., and contextual information on respondent income and education. Problem cases are selected for manual review by an experienced coder or coding supervisor. Rates of manual review are similar for the NLSY97 as for the CPS. Wherever possible the Census Bureau has attempted to implement for this survey the coding procedures in place for the CPS.

Users should note that the 2002 frame differs considerably from the 1990 frame in organization, level of granularity, and other characteristics. Analyses of NLSY97 as well as CPS data indicate that jobs within a single category of one frame may disperse broadly to a variety of codes in the other frame.

To view tables summarizing industries and occupations reported by NLSY97 respondents with employee jobs, go to Industry & Occupation Tables.

Freelance Jobs

In rounds 1-3, NLSY97 youths not classified as self-employed (self-employed=job where the respondent is age 16 or older and usually earning $200 or more per week) described the type of work they performed. NORC personnel coded these verbatim descriptions for release in the data set. This information is located in variable FREELANCE_JOBS_COD.xx. Because the Census codes are not appropriate for this freelance employment, the descriptions were classified using a separate coding frame with categories such as babysitting, mowing, pet care, and snow shoveling. This information is located in variable FREELANCE_JOBS_NEWCOD.xx for rounds 1-5. The reporting of freelance jobs was limited in round 4 to respondents born in 1983-84 and in round 5 to those born in 1984. The coding of these jobs was changed beginning in round 3. At that time the freelance codes were redone for rounds 1 and 2 to match the new coding system, which began in round 3. Both the old and new codes are available for these rounds. Starting in round 6, no freelance jobs section is included.


For all freelance jobs reported in rounds 1-3 in which respondents are considered self-employed (age 16 or older and usually earn $200 or more per week), the survey asked about the business or industry classification of the job. The series of questions determining the industry was similar to that asked for employee jobs. Survey staff then coded the industry of each self-employed job using the 1990 Census industrial codes.

The structure of the questionnaire changed in round 4, based on the age of the respondent. Older respondents (those born in 1980-82 for round 4 and those born in 1980-83 for round 5) reported self-employment jobs in the employee jobs section, answering industry questions like those listed above for employee jobs. These jobs were coded the same way as employee-type jobs. Younger respondents (those born in 1983-84 for round 4 and those born in 1984 for round 5) continued to list self-employment jobs in the freelance section. If a freelance job met the earnings requirement for self-employment, the industry was coded using the 1990 Census codes. Beginning in round 6, no freelance sections were included. All self-employed jobs were reported and coded in the same way as employee jobs.

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys: Industry is collected each year from NLSY79 respondents; however, the jobs must meet minimum hours worked and weeks worked requirements before this information is collected. For the NLSY79, industry is coded using the 1970 (through 1993) and/or 1980 (1982-present) industrial classification codes. Industry is also coded using the 1970 and 1990 (for the CPS job only) codes for Children of the NLSY79 age 15 and older. For the Mature and Young Women, industry was coded using 1960, 1980, and 1990 systems. The industries of Older and Young Men were recorded using 1960 codes for all years; in the final two Older Men surveys, industry was doublecoded using the 1980 system. For more information, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide.

Survey Instruments: These questions are found in the employment section of the Youth Questionnaire. Question names begin with YEMP- and roster items begin with YEMP_.

Related User's Guide Sections Occupation
Main Area of Interest Employment: Industry & Occupation
Supplemental Areas of Interest Training