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Working Learner Datasets

ACT Foundation / Working Learner Datasets

Catalog of Working Learner Related Datasets

At the heart of the National Learning Economy are working learners – individuals actively engaged in working and learning – in pursuit of greater economic security and overall life satisfaction. Although working learners represent the majority of America’s workforce and the majority of post-secondary students[1] in today’s changing economy, there is relatively little ongoing research looking at factors shaping individuals’ success in balancing working and learning as a means to better support their overall learning, financial, and life goals. For example,

  • What motivates postsecondary students to become working learners?
  • How do older workers perceive the learning landscape today and what information do they need to make informed decisions regarding their re-engagement with formal learning activities?
  • What criteria do working learners use to assess the relatedness of their current working and learning activities in terms of skills used, knowledge gained, or career trajectories?
  • What are the optimal job characteristics for academic success among postsecondary working learners?

This current lack of information results from working learners’ position at the intersection of education and workforce development. Differences in funding and organization between local, state, and federal education and workforce systems have lead to diverse data collection efforts and metrics and a pressing need for research that cuts across these domains.  In response, the ACT Foundation is providing this catalog of publicly-available secondary datasets that include information related to individuals’ engagement in education and training as well as formal work activities.  It is our hope that this tool empowers and inspires researchers and analysts to engage in this growing conversation and illuminate the multidimensional factors behind working learner success.

Have suggestions or information regarding other potential working learner datasets?  Please contact Christina Gordon at

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health)


  • Examines the linkages between high school and postsecondary education and health, well-being, and career indicators in early adulthood.
  • Focuses special attention on contextual factors and cognitive and psychosocial development

Current Population Survey (CPS)


  • Provides monthly data on labor force participation and demographics within the US
  • Data on special topics are collected in periodic supplemental surveys such as the October supplement

American Time Use Survey (ATUS)


  • Measures how Americans divide their time between activities including paid and unpaid work, education, caring for others, and recreation.
  • Because respondents are drawn from the Current Population Survey, data are linkable to the CPS.

National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97)


  • Documents the transition from school to work and into adulthood
  • Includes detailed information about both freelance and formal work
  • Educational data include detailed information about progression through high school, training programs, and post-secondary schooling
  • Time-use data are available

National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79)


  • Focuses on labor market behavior including work histories, job characteristics, earnings, and job searches
  • Includes information on educational attainment, training investments, and expectations
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