Negotiating the Life Course (NLC) is a longitudinal study undertaken by the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, Australian National University and the School of Social Science, University of Queensland. It is designed to study the changing life courses and decision-making processes of Australian men and women as the family and society move from male breadwinner orientation in the direction of higher levels of gender equity. The project has six aims; to extend the theories of human capital and new home economics in explaining women's and men's labour force participation; to map women's and men's work trajectories over their life course, from career entry into retirement, and to develop explanatory models of career trajectories; to identify those aspects of the family-household system and the labour market that facilitate or impede women's involvement with the labour market; to investigate the interrelationships between labour force decisions about family formation and household arrangements; to identify the portfolio of resources that women and men draw upon throughout their lives when making decisions about career and family; and to assess the policy implications of the findings of the project for the institutions of the welfare state, the labour market and the family.
Variables included relationship and fertility histories, household work, child care arrangements, future objectives, attitudes to work, promotion, children and relationships. Background variables included parental country of birth, employment, occupation and education, respondent's and spouse's place of residence, education, income, housing, religion, health status, birthplace, marital status and household composition.
Detailed information is gathered relating to lifetime experiences of paid employment, education and training, relationships and childbearing. Considerable information is also gathered in relation to current employment and training, child care, household division of labour, caring and voluntary work, and a range of attitudes, values and expectations. In addition, standard socio-demographic descriptors are obtained.
NLC is a national random telephone survey using the electronic white pages as its sample frame. It is set up as an indefinite life, panel survey. In the first wave of the NLC project, 2231 people took part. Participants were from all around Australia. The larger states had a larger number of participants. The response rates were highest in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, intermediate in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and in New South Wales and Victoria outside of Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney and Melbourne had lower response rates with Sydney being particularly low – this was put down to language problems due to large numbers of non-English speakers in these cities, and suggests the need for translation facilities in the future. Despite concerns about the response rate, the 1997 study seems broadly representative of the Australian population.
Because only one person per household was interviewed, the unweighted sample under-represents households with more than one eligible respondent relative to households where there is only one eligible respondent. A weighting factor has been provided to take account of this bias in the unweighted sample when population estimates are being made. Weighting makes no difference to the distribution by sex. The main impact of weighting is in the distribution of the sample by living arrangement. Weighting shifts about five percent of respondents 'not in a relationship' to 'married'.
The data is available on the Australian Data Archive (ADA) in a variety of formats.
The above description draws upon Peter McDonald, et al, The Negotiating the Life Course Survey Experience (Paper prepared for the Panel Data and Policy Conference, Rydges Canberra: 1-3 May 2000).
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