NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

The High School and Beyond Midlife Study

Over the years, NCES has conducted several longitudinal studies that collect information on a representative cohort of high school students and follow the students’ outcomes through postsecondary education and/or entry into the workforce. These studies have led to important research on the educational trajectories of young adults.

But what happens after that? A recent data collection provides some answers by following up with survey participants later in life.

In 2014–15, the High School and Beyond (HS&B) Midlife Study collected information from a cohort of individuals in their early- to mid-50s, all of whom had first completed an HS&B survey in 1980 when they were in high school. By linking high school survey data with information collected 35 years later, this new collection offers an exciting opportunity to conduct research on the long-term outcomes of education.

Some preliminary research using the HS&B Midlife Study shows that high school and college experiences continue to play important roles in individuals’ lives into midlife.

 

Education (Grodsky and Doren 2015)

  • Between the ages of 28 and 50, a majority of cohort members (61 percent) enrolled in some sort of formal education, and in the process, they earned higher level degrees. By age 50,
     
    • 12 percent had earned a master’s, graduate, or professional degree, compared with 4 percent at age 28.
       
    • 36 percent had earned a bachelor’s or graduate degree, compared with 27 percent at age 28.
       
    • 36 percent had earned only a high school diploma or less, compared with 54 percent at age 28.
       
  • Gaps in educational attainment by gender, race/ethnicity, and parental education observed in early adulthood remained largely unchanged in midlife, with a notable exception:
     
    • A higher proportion of cohort adults whose parents had higher levels of education enrolled in graduate school between the ages of 28 and 50, which may be related to high school academic achievement (e.g., grades, test scores).

 

Labor Force Participation (Bosky 2019)

  • Men and women who took college preparatory math coursework in high school (i.e., Algebra II or higher) had lower unemployment at midlife, even after controlling for whether they completed a bachelor’s degree. In addition,
     
    • Women who earned higher GPAs were employed at higher rates.
       
    • Men who scored higher on math achievement tests were employed at higher rates.
       
  • At midlife, the percentage of workers who held jobs with low pay and/or no health or retirement benefits was higher for women than for men, even among workers with similar levels of educational attainment. This gender gap was smaller among people who had taken advanced math coursework in high school (i.e., Algebra II or above).
     
  • Across levels of education, higher percentages of women than men experienced economic insecurity at midlife, as indicated by their perceived ability to pay for a large unexpected expense in the near-term. The percentage of women experiencing midlife economic insecurity was lower for those with a college degree than for those without a college degree. Also,
     
    • For people without a college degree, higher math achievement test scores were associated with lower rates of economic insecurity, even after controlling for work, health, and family characteristics at midlife.
       
    • A lower percentage of women who had taken college preparatory math coursework in high school were economically insecure at midlife, regardless of whether they had completed a bachelor’s degree.
       
    • A lower percentage of married women than unmarried women were economically insecure. This gap was largest among women without a college degree.

 

Health

  • Adolescents who took coursework that was more advanced in high school reported better health and physical functioning at midlife (Carroll et al. 2017).
     
  • Earning a bachelor’s degree by age 28 predicted body weight at midlife. This relationship differed by sex (Pattison 2019).
     
  • Mortality risk was higher among the following groups:
     
    • People who had not taken college preparatory math coursework in high school.
       
    • People with more frequent absences from high school. (Warren et al. 2017)
       

Survey data from the HS&B Midlife Study are now available for researchers. In order to protect the privacy of survey respondents, the dataset is available only to researchers who have a restricted-use data license. For more information about the survey, visit https://sites.utexas.edu/hsb/, and for more information on the restricted-use data program, visit https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/licenses.asp.  

 

Funding Acknowledgement

The 2014–2015 HS&B Midlife Study was supported by a combination of government and nongovernment sources, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Grant 2012-10-27), the Institute for Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education (Grant R305U140001), and the National Science Foundation (Grants HRD1348527 and HRD1348557). It also benefited from direct funding from NORC at the University of Chicago and support provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to the University of Texas at Austin (R24-HD042849), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (P2C-HD047873), and the University of Minnesota (P2C-HH041023).

 

References

Bosky, A.L. (2019). Academic Preparation in High School and Gendered Exposure to Economic Insecurity at Midlife (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/76122/BOSKY-DISSERTATION-2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

Carroll, J.M., Muller, C., Grodsky, E., and Warren, J.R. (2017). Tracking Health Inequalities from High School to Midlife. Social Forces, 96(2): 591–628. doi: 10.1093/sf/sox065.

Grodsky, E., and Doren, C. (2015). Coming in to Focus: Education and Stratification at Midlife. Paper presented at the Invited Lecture at Columbia University, March 26, 2015, New York.

Pattison, E. (2019). Educational Stratification and Obesity in Midlife: Considering the Role of Sex, Social Class, and Race/Ethnicity (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/76097/PATTISON-DISSERTATION-2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

Warren, J.R., Milesi, C., Grigorian, K., Humphries, M., Muller, C., and Grodsky, E. (2017). Do Inferences About Mortality Rates and Disparities Vary by Source of Mortality Information? Annals of Epidemiology, 27(2): 121–127. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2016.11.003.

 

By Chandra Muller, University of Texas at Austin, and Elise Christopher, NCES

Working Toward a Successful National Data Collection: The ECLS Field Test

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducts some of the most complex education surveys in the world, and we work hard to make these surveys as effective and efficient as possible. One way we make sure our surveys are successful is by conducting multiple tests before we fully launch a national data collection.

Even prior to a field test, NCES develops survey materials and procedures using much smaller-scale cognitive laboratory testing and focus-group processes. These initial development procedures help ensure that materials are clear and procedures are understood before we conduct field testing with larger and more representative groups of respondents. Then, we launch the field tests to test data-collection operations and survey processes and procedures. Field tests are small-scale surveys that include a range of respondents and are designed to test the survey questionnaires and survey administration procedures in a real-world situation prior to the launch of a major study. The field test results allow us to make any necessary adjustments before starting the national data collection. Field tests also allow us to test specific survey items and ensure that they are valid and reliable. Without a field test, we could risk spending the public’s time and money on large data-collection efforts that do not produce the intended information.

NCES is about to begin the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2022–23 (ECLS-K:2023) with a field test early this year. The ECLS-K:2023 will focus on children’s early school experiences, beginning with preschool and continuing through fifth grade. From the spring of 2022 through the spring of 2028, we will collect national study data from children and their parents, teachers, and school administrators to answer questions about children’s early learning and development, transition into kindergarten and beyond, and experiences in the elementary grades. 

Although the ECLS-K:2023 will be similar in many ways to prior ECLS kindergarten studies, we are adding a round of data collection prior to the children’s kindergarten year—the national spring 2022 preschool round. For this preschool survey, we’ll send an invitation to participate to a sample of residential addresses within selected areas of the United States. Potential participants will first be asked to fill out a brief screener questionnaire. If they report that an ECLS-eligible child is in the household, they will be asked additional important questions about early childhood topics, such as their child’s literacy, language, math, and social skills; activities done with the child in the home (e.g., singing songs, playing games, reading); and characteristics of any early care and education (i.e., child care) arrangements for the child.   

Because the ECLS-K:2023 preschool data need to be comprehensive and reliable so that they can inform public discussions and policies related to early elementary education, it’s crucial that we test our procedures and questions for this new preschool round by conducting a field test in early 2020.  

If you receive a letter about participating in the 2020 ECLS field test, you’re being selected to represent thousands of households like yours and provide NCES with the data we need to make decisions about how to best conduct the ECLS-K:2023. The participation of all the selected households who receive our mailings, even those without children, is essential for a successful field test and, ultimately, a successful ECLS-K:2023.

If you are selected for the ECLS field test and have any questions about participating, please visit the participant information page

For more information on the ECLS-K:2023 or its 2020 field test, please email the ECLS study team.

For information about other ECLS program studies, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/ecls/.

 

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll

Now Available! New Nationally Representative Data on the Socioemotional Development of Elementary School Students

In an earlier blog post, we shared that one of our survey programs—the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) program—was collecting data on socioemotional development to better understand how different academic and nonacademic factors may influence a child’s early schooling experiences. New data are now available from the spring 2016 public-use dataset for the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011). This file contains data from every round of the ECLS-K:2011, from kindergarten through fifth grade.

For decades, the National Center for Education Statistics and other researchers have used ECLS data to examine questions about elementary school students’ socioemotional development. For instance, as seen in the excerpt below, an earlier wave of data was used to develop an indicator in the America’s Children report that looks at first-time kindergartners’ scores on socioemotional scales and how these students may victimize their peers. ECLS data are rich with information that can be used to analyze the influence of family, school, community, and individual factors on students’ development, early learning, and performance in school.

In the most recent ECLS program study, the ECLS-K:2011 collected information on its sample of kindergartners during the 2010–11 school year and then at least once during every academic year thereafter until 2015–16, when most of the students were in fifth grade. The ECLS-K:2011 data allow researchers to study how students’ socioemotional skills develop over time through reports from the students themselves and from key people in those students’ lives, including their parents, before- and after-school care providers, teachers, and school administrators.

Here’s a peek into the socioemotional development measures included the ECLS-K:2011:

  • Students completed questionnaires about their relationships with peers, social distress, peer victimization, and satisfaction with different aspects of their lives.
  • Teachers used their experiences with students in their classrooms to provide information about students’ approaches to learning (e.g., eagerness to learn, self-direction, attentiveness), social skills, and problem behaviors, as well as their own closeness and conflict with students.
  • Parents provided separate reports on much of the same information reported by teachers to provide a richer picture of their child’s development through a different lens.

For more information on the measures of socioemotional development included in the ECLS-K:2011, please see our study instruments or email the ECLS study team. Also, keep an eye out for future online training modules for the ECLS-K:2011, which will be released in fall 2019 or early 2020. To be alerted about the release of the free online trainings, email the ECLS study team at ECLS@ed.gov and ask to be added to the ECLS listserv.

 


Excerpt from America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2017


 

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll and Gail M. Mulligan

 

Where Are They Now? Following up with High School Ninth-Graders Seven Years Later

By Lauren Musu-Gillette and Elise Christopher

Seventy-two percent of all fall 2009 ninth-graders had enrolled in postsecondary education by February 2016, about 3 years after most students had completed high school. Among these students who enrolled in postsecondary education, the majority (82 percent) had enrolled within 4 months of leaving high school. These findings come from the most recent wave
of the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09). HSLS:09 follows a nationally representative sample of students who were ninth-graders in fall 2009 from the beginning of high school into higher education and the workforce. 

Among all 2009 ninth-graders who had enrolled in postsecondary education by February 2016, about 36 percent first enrolled at a public 2-year college, 41 percent at a public 4-year college, 16 percent at a private nonprofit 4-year college, and the remainder (7 percent) attended a for-profit or other type of institution.

A higher percentage of females (77 percent) than males (68 percent) had enrolled in any postsecondary education by February 2016. Additionally, a higher percentage of Asian students (88 percent) had enrolled in postsecondary education than students of all other racial/ethnic groups shown. The percentage of enrollees was also higher for White students (76 percent) than for Black students (65 percent), Hispanic students (68 percent), and students of Other or Two or more races (69 percent).


Percentage of fall 2009 ninth-graders enrolled in postsecondary education as of February 2016, by race/ethnicity: 2016

NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Second Follow-Up: A First Look at Fall 2009 Ninth-Graders in 2016.


Twenty-two percent of fall 2009 ninth-graders who had enrolled in postsecondary education after high school had not attained a postsecondary credential but were no longer enrolled as of February 2016. When asked to select one or more reasons for leaving postsecondary education without earning a credential, 48 percent selected personal or family reasons, 40 percent picked financial reasons, 24 percent chose academic reasons, 22 percent chose work-related reasons, and 9 percent chose none of these.

The data collected in this 2016 follow-up collection allow researchers to examine an array of outcomes among fall 2009 ninth-graders, including delayed high school completion, postsecondary enrollment, early postsecondary persistence and attainment, labor market experiences, family formation, and family financial support. Analyses of these outcomes can capitalize on data already gathered about the students in fall 2009, in spring 2012 (when most were 11th-graders), and in summer and fall 2013 (when most had completed high school). HSLS:09 is also collecting students’ postsecondary financial aid records and postsecondary transcripts in 2017 and 2018. A First Look report and data from these documents are scheduled for release in 2019.

Data for the second follow-up are available in several formats. Restricted-use data are currently available for analysis using the PowerStats and QuickStats tools in the DataLab suite. Public-use microdata are available for download via the Online Codebook

Educational attainment differences by students’ socioeconomic status

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

Obtaining higher education can be an important step towards better occupational and economic outcomes. Lower levels of educational attainment are associated with higher unemployment rates and lower earnings. Although an increasing number of students have enrolled in postsecondary institutions over the last several decades, there are still differences in the characteristics of students who complete various levels of postsecondary education.

One particularly important issue to explore is differences in educational attainment by socioeconomic status (SES) to investigate the opportunities for social mobility that education can provide. Recently, NCES published a spotlight indicator on this topic to be included in the annual Condition of Education report. The report uses data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), which surveyed students at different points during their secondary and postsecondary years. Students were first surveyed in 2002 when they were sophomores in high school. Then, their highest level of education was assessed ten years later, in 2012.


Percentage distribution of highest level of educational attainment of spring 2002 high school sophomores in 2012, by socioeconomic status (SES)

1 Includes education at any type of postsecondary institution, but with no earned postsecondary credential. 
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002). See Digest of Education Statistics 2014table 104.91.


Several key findings highlight differences in educational attainment by SES. For example:

  • Seven percent of low-SES students had not completed high school by 2012, greater than the percentages of middle- and high-SES students who had not completed high school by 2012;
  • By 2012, Fourteen percent of low-SES students who were high school sophomores in 2002 had earned a bachelor’s or higher degree, smaller than 29 percent of middle-SES students and 60 percent of high-SES students who earned a bachelor’s or higher degree; and
  • Compared to high-SES students, smaller percentages of low- and middle-SES students who performed in the highest quartile of math achievement during their sophomore year of high school went on to complete a bachelor’s degree by 2012.

Percentage of spring 2002 high school sophomores who earned a bachelor's degree or higher by 2012, by socioeconomic status (SES) and mathematics achievement quartile in 2002

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002). See Digest of Education Statistics 2014table 104.91.


The following video describes additional findings from the report: