Years on the NLS team: 1986-1996
Role: I directed the NLS program at BLS including all cohorts, interagency agreements, and a small grants program.
I directed the NLS program for 10 years and I’d like to believe my list of innovations is long (as is the list of challenges). I’m most proud of beginning the NLSY97. Although I left BLS just as the first round was going into the field, I had overseen the survey’s development from the beginning. I put together the documents and justifications required to get the proposal through BLS, DOL, OMB, and finally Congress. Of course I hardly did it alone and owe a debt of gratitude to numerous people at BLS and in the Office of the Chief Economist in DOL. Once we received the funding, I travelled to multiple locations around the U.S. to meet with researchers to discuss their data needs so as to identify the parameters of the design. I was able to convince BLS to start the cohort at age 12 (tried for age 10, but took what I could get). I worked with Ken Wolpin to lead the questionnaire design and when we decided we should have a separate interview of the parent, I shuffled resources to make that happen. In the end, the NLSY97 became a significant member of the NLS portfolio.
I’ve looked at a lot of surveys in my time, both cross-sectional and longitudinal and there are a lot of bad ones out there. The NLS surveys have their flaws, but I’m proud that the program has always tried to do things right. The people who have worked on the program over the years at BLS, CHRR, and NORC have all been dedicated to making the data useful in all the ways that word implies. Working on the NLS makes me feel like I made a difference for research and, over time, in developing better social policy.