Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Save the NLSY

I received two emails like this yesterday from different people. The NLS is a very worthy cause. It is one of the best of the major social science panel data projects. Moreover, unlikely the vast majority of things that the US federal government produces, it is actually a public good.


Dear Colleague, I am writing to alert you that the National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) program faces the biggest threat in its 47-year history, due to a recent disturbing decision by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Despite receiving almost level funding in the current federal Fiscal Year (FY12) budget, the BLS has decided that for the remainder of FY12, it is cutting NLS funding from $5.6 million to less than $1 million – essentially eliminating the program for this year. The FY12 budget for the BLS, finalized recently, represented a reduction of 0.18% while the impact on the NLS for the unspent remainder of FY12 is a reduction of 83.9%. This disproportionate reduction represents a devastating erosion to the viability of the NLS and has resulted in an immediate cessation of field activities. Of even greater concern is that this funding reduction is being accompanied with a plan to move the NLS to a triennial data collection. Pushing these surveys out from annually to every three years will reduce the reliability of the data and could potentially be the beginning of the end of this essential national data resource. We can only achieve a reversal of this decision with your help!

At this time of economic uncertainty, we need access to the detailed longitudinal data collected by the NLS. Both the NLSY79 and the NLSY97 garner response rates of 80% or higher, and provide invaluable employment, economic, health, housing, education, joblessness, and other information to approximately 5,000 researchers in the public, private, academic, and non-profit sectors. By conservative estimates, there are more than 7,000 studies that utilize NLS data, and NLS findings have played an integral role in informing policymaking at all levels of government.

We cannot afford to lose this precious national resource. Therefore, I ask you to join me in taking action to help to preserve the NLS:

(1) Please contact Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (Hilda.Solis@dol.gov or 202-693-6000) and Acting Deputy Commissioner of BLS, Jack Galvin, (Galvin.John@bls.gov or 202-691-5200) to stress the utility and importance of the NLS and ask them to rescind these cuts.

(2) Please share this information and the attached national stakeholder letter with your network and your own institution and urge them to sign-on. The letter will be sent to Secretary Solis, urging her to restore $4.7 million to the NLS program for this year. We need many institutions and organizations to add their voice to this cause. To sign onto the letter, please contact Rebecca McGrath at 202-230-5679, or Rebecca.mcgrath@dbr.com.

(3) Please contact your Members of Congress and ask them to support the NLS, by sending the attached letter to Secretary Solis. To reach your elected officials in Congress by phone, please call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to the office of your Representative in the House and then call back to be connected to your two U.S. Senators (just let the operator know from which state you are calling). Tell each of them to contact Secretary of Labor Solis voicing their opposition to the reduction in funding for the National Longitudinal Surveys and urging her to restore $4.7 million in funding for FY12 to support this important national resource. Please join me in this effort to preserve these valuable data.

Thank you for your help.


[famous labor economist]

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