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The LSAY-LSAL pauses after 33 years

In 1985, the National Science Foundation (NSF) provided funds to plan and initiate a new national longitudinal study of public school students in grades seven and ten. After a year of pilot testing, the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) was launched in the fall of 1987. A total of 5,945 students agreed to participate in the LSAY. During the middle school and high school years, the LSAY collected attitude information from students each fall and spring, administered science and mathematics achievement tests each fall, conducted a telephone interview with one parent of each participating student, collected background and class information from each science and mathematics teacher that served one or more LSAY students, and collected annual institutional data from the principal. The LSAY used telephone interviews and printed and online questionnaires to survey students after high school. The NSF provided more than $20 million to support the LSAY through 2011 when the participants reached 40 years of age. The NSF declined to continue its support in 2012, indicating that they did not think that the study of continued adult learning about science was worth the investment.

In September, 2014, the National Institute on Aging (a part of the National Institutes of Health) approved an award of $3.1 million to allow the continuation of annual surveys of the 5,100 students from the original 1987 LSAY sample who were alive and able to participate (grant number 1R01AG049624-01) for the next five years. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provided additional support through a cooperative agreement to allow the continuation of data collection through 2020. A secondary analysis file for the full 33-year period will be available from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) in late 2022.

From its inception, the LSAY/LSAL has been committed to sharing its data (blinded to remove personal information that could identify any individual participant) with other scholars to advance the understanding of the development of scientific literacy and its consequences for later life decisions. The LSAY-LSAL sample reflects the center of Generation X and the first generation of children to reach adulthood in the Internet Era. My colleagues and I have published several recent articles describing the emergence of just-in-time information acquisition in the 21st century (see publications tab for specific citations). The LSAY-LSAL data set is the most comprehensive longitudinal data set ever collected on this subject.

The breadth and richness of the data set provides opportunities for interested scholars to study many aspects of the development of Generation X. To date, secondary analysts of the LSAY/LSAL data have produced more than 40 dissertations and 200 refereed articles. We hope that this site will provide useful information for the participants in the LSAL and will assist other scholars in understanding the unique opportunities in the LSAL data set.

I will soon celebrate my 81st birthday and have paused the LSAL to search for a new Director and long-term funding support. The 33-year database is one of the longest and most in-depth examination of the development of scientific literacy. The data set includes important longitudinal data about career choice and persistence, with some attention focused on STEMM professions. Because of its rich demographic data concerning the formation and persistence of families, the data set is valuable for a wide-range of social science scholarship.

My research colleagues and I will continue to write on the major themes of this data set and welcome expressions of interest from other scholars and analysts.

Jon D. Miller
Longitudinal Study of American Youth
Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan