The NLSY 1979 Cohort is a longitudinal project that follows the lives of 12,686 American youth born between 1957 and 1964. The study was intended to be representative of United States residents, both male and female. It observes the life-course experiences of young adults who were finishing their schooling and were making decisions about education and training, entering the labour market, military service, marriage, and having families. Cohort members are now in their 50s and survey content has turned to age-appropriate topics including health and retirement expectations.

Yearly personal interviews were conducted from 1979 – 1986. In 1987, a telephone interview was conducted. Personal interviews resumed in 1988 and continued yearly until 1994. Since 1994, NLSY79 participants have been interviewed in even-numbered years.