Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS)


Pamela Herd, Associate Professor of Public Affairs and Sociology, UW-Madison


The historic Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) recently completed a new round of data collection. A first for WLS, interviews were conducted in person. Over 12,000 graduate and sibling participants were contacted for interviews that included cognitive assessments and physical measurements. Interviewers also collected waivers to access Social Security and Medicare records, as well as DNA samples not already given by participants during a previous effort. In addition, participants were asked to complete a 72-page self-administered questionnaire. UWSC achieved over an 80% overall response rate for the in-person interviews.

The WLS is a unique, large-scale longitudinal study of adults and their families that covers more than half a century of life. It is a valuable resource for research on aging, life course, inter-generational transfers, relationships, family functioning, long term effects of education and cognitive ability, occupational careers, physical and mental well-being, and morbidity and mortality.

The WLS began in 1957 with original data collection from 10,317 high school graduates in Wisconsin with subsequent data collection in 1964, 1975, 1992, and 2004. Previous waves consisted of an in-depth telephone interview and a follow-up mail survey with the more than 9600 surviving men and women in the original sample. A parallel phone and mail survey was conducted with 7150 randomly selected siblings of the graduates. A shorter telephone survey was conducted with spouses of graduates and siblings.

In 2007, UWSC conducted a massive biomarker collection for the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. 8,141 graduates were asked to donate a saliva sample using an Oragene kit and return it by mail. UWSC also successfully fielded a similar biomarker collection effort with the siblings.

Further information can be found here.


Kerryann DiLoreto, Ken Croes, Jessica Price, Karen Zoladz, Rae Ganci, and Griselle Sánchez


September 2009 – December 2012