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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Wisconsin Longitudinal Study 2020 and Beyond

This project transitions the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) into the next decade of research questions and new opportunities by substantially expanding the core dataset.

The WLS started with a state-wide survey of 30,000 Wisconsin high school students in the Class of 1957. Since 1964, UW–Madison investigators have resurveyed and assessed a random sample of over 10,000 of the original 30,000 Wisconsinites as they complete school, enter the workforce, start families, experience health transitions, retire and face declining health and mortality at old age. The WLS is a premier resource of understanding how events and circumstances throughout life shape old age economic and health trajectories and can answer questions that no other data resource in the United States can answer.

This project expands the WLS in four ways. It digitizes the data from the 20,000 high schoolers in the Class of 1957 who were not resurveyed in order to contextualize the school and peer environments of the 10,000 respondents who have been resurveyed for the past 50 years. It links the digitized surveys to the 1940 Decennial Census in order to infuse new measures of early childhood environments. It links the surveys to mortality records, which together with data from the 1940 Census allows explorations between early exposures to pollution and toxicants with mortality. It makes progress on additional possibilities of data-linking of the full 30,000 respondents to recent Census products through the Wisconsin Federal Statistical Research Data Center (WiscRDC).

Principal Investigator:

  • Jason Fletcher
    Professor of Public Affairs and Sociology


  • Carol Roan
    Associate Scientist in Social Science Research Services and Study Director, Wisconsin Longitudinal Study
  • Joe Savard
    Program Analyst in Social Science Research Services


  • Sanjay Asthana
    Professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Marsha Mailick
    Professor Emerita in the School of Social Work
  • James Raymo
    Chair of the Department of Sociology and Professor of Sociology
  • Nora Cate Schaeffer
    Professor of Sociology and Director of the UW Survey Center