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NSF funds launch of a new LSAY 7th grade cohort in 2015
NIH-NIA fund continued study of original LSAY students

In September, 2013, the National Science Foundation awarded new funding to the University of Michigan for the launch of a new 7th grade cohort in the Longitudinal Study of American Youth. The new award (NSF award 1348619) provides approximately $1.5 million to design and launch a new 7th grade cohort (a cohort is a sample of students from a specific age group that is followed over a long period of time) of public school students selected to be comparable to the original cohorts selected in 1987. The new 7th grade cohort (referred to as Cohort 3) is one generation younger than the original cohorts and will allow a comparison of changes in family and school life over the last generation.

According to Jon Miller, the Director of the LSAY and the Principal Investigator of the new NSF grant, the new sample of 7th grade students will – when followed over several years – provide a needed empirical description of the many changes occurring in American society and in American schools. As in the original 1987 samples of 7th and 10th grade students, the new study will examine the development of student interest and skill acquisition in science and mathematics and the formation of career plans during the middle-school and high school years. Analyses of these patterns of interest development, skill acquisition, and career choices for the students in the 1987 cohorts have provided important insights into the origins and composition of the scientific workforce in the United States, which is an important component of national competitiveness in the 21st century.

The new 2015 cohort will also allow a careful examination of changes in family life and communication patterns over recent decades. Other national studies have indicated that an increasing proportion of children will grow up in families with one parent or in families with two working parents, placing new pressures on families for child care and supervision. For many families, geographic mobility has led to fewer other family members available to provide child care or to assist when a child is sick or for other emergency situations. The new study will provide a systemic examination of the distribution of social capital and the emerging patterns of family support networks.

The continuation of the original 1987 cohorts

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 in the original LSAY study in 1987 (grant number 1R01AG049624-01) for the next five years. The continuing annual surveys of the original LSAY participants (now approximately 40 years old) will focus on education and employment patterns; health status, awareness, and experiences; financial status and planning (including the impact of the Great Recession); and the use of new information technologies and resources.

All of the original participants will receive a letter in mid-October announcing the new award and the resumption of data collection in mid-November, 2014. Because of the two-year pause in data collection after the end of NSF funding, all LSAY participants will be asked to update their current mailing address and email address to assure regular communication. A new edition of the Generation X Report will be released this fall and will be available online and by mail.

“The initiation of a new longitudinal cohort and the continuation of our original cohorts are exciting events,” according to Miller. “These awards recognize the importance of studying the life course of individuals over a number of years if we wish to understand the patterns and causes of human change.”