Surveys of the Life Course and Aging: Some Comparisons

Kuo, Hsiang-Hui Daphne, Hyunjoon Park, Taissa S. Hauser, Robert M. Hauser, and Nadine F. Marks
Working paper no. 2001-06


In this paper, we introduce, compare, and evaluate the design and content of five major longitudinal studies of aging: the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), Health and Retirement Survey (HRS), National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), Americans’ Changing Lives (ACL), and Midlife in the United States (MIDUS). We first compare population coverage, sampling design, response rate, observational duration, sources of relational and multi-level data, and links to public records. Overall, WLS, HRS, and NSFH excel in many respects. We also evaluate questions and measures in each study. In topical coverage, WLS and NSFH are the most complete. In question quality, WLS, HRS, and NSFH excel in several areas, while MIDUS and ACL stand out mainly in life event inventories, psychological measures and some health measures.