Publication Date



Paper presented to the forum of the South Australian Institute for Educational Research and Flinders University Institute for International Education, Adelaide.


Youth in Transition (YIT), a program of longitudinal surveys conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), began in 1978. The program was designed to trace national samples of 6 000 young people who were born in 1961 and had participated as 14-year-olds in the Australian Studies in School Performance in 1975 (Keeves & Bourke, 1976). New samples were added in 1981, 1985 and 1989, based on cohorts of young people born in 1965, 1970 and 1975, respectively. Data were collected on each of the first three cohorts until the mid-1990s; data collection from the 1975 birth cohort ended in December 2002. A new cohort was added in 1995, and the program was renamed the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY); a second LSAY cohort was added in 1998. Each of these LSAY cohorts comprised more than 13 000 young people who were in Year 9 in those years. LSAY also incorporates data from cohorts of the Australian Longitudinal Survey (ALS) and the Australian Youth Survey (AYS), two Commonwealth survey programs that concentrated on the labour market and training experiences of young people in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A third LSAY cohort commences in 2003. Much of the interest in these longitudinal studies has been in understanding the transitions young people make from school: to work, to further study and into society as adults. The young people were first contacted in school (although not for AYS), and have been interviewed annually until about age 27. Members of the last of the YIT cohorts—young people born in 1975—were contacted for the last time at the end of 2002, aged 27. Some of the earlier cohorts had been contacted somewhat sporadically until age 30 or 33. The current cohorts were modally 22 and 19 years old in 2002. LSAY provides valuable information on changes in senior secondary education from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.