The National Longitudinal Study of the Class of 1972 is the first in a series of longitudinal studies of high school students led by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The study began with a nationally representative sample of high school seniors set to graduate in 1972. Data was collected on students' academic experiences, socioeconomic and family backgrounds, and postsecondary plans, among other topics. The study was introduced to collect data to better understand the factors that influence students' postsecondary and vocational decisions over time. Participants were resurveyed a total of 5 times, in 1973, 1974, 1976, 1979, and 1986. A Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS) was collected in 1984.
NLS-72 has been funded by the Alzheimer's Association and the National Institutes of Health for a sixth follow up in 2025. This follow up will introduce biomarker collection and a cognitive test battery to understand the influence of life experiences and education on cognitive health outcomes later in life.