Estimating AFQT Scores for National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) Respondents

by M. Rebecca Kilburn, Lawrence M. Hanser, Jacob Alex Klerman


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This is the first report of a two-part project that estimates the determinants of individual enlistment decisions using the 1992 and 1994 waves of the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS). The authors estimate AFQT scores for NELS respondents using test scores reported in the 1992 NELS, test score trends from the 1978-1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and the sample in the 1980 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) that was used to norm the AFQT. Percentile scores on the NELS tests are equated to percentile scores on the AFQT in the NLSY with an adjustment to reflect test score trends observed in the NAEP over the period 1980-1992. In addition to estimating AFQT scores for NELS respondents, the authors examine test score trends between 1980 and 1992 to draw implications for recruiting policy. The evidence suggests that concerns that a rising share of minorities in the youth population will result in a decline in the potential supply of high-quality youth are unwarranted. Even though minorities in the early 1990s continued to score lower than average on the AFQT, the growth in their population share was outweighed by their greater-than-average test score growth during the 1980s and early 1990s. The net result of these countervailing trends was that a larger fraction of minorities were estimated to be high-quality potential recruits and that the share of the entire high school senior population scoring in that range was largely unchanged.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    The AFQT and Its Role in Enlistment

  • Chapter Three

    Information in the NELS and Approaches to Imputing Test Scores

  • Chapter Four


  • Chapter Five

    Implications for Recruiting Outcomes

  • Appendix A

    Standard and Percentile Test Score Tables

  • Appendix B

    Relating Test Score Estimates to Recruiting Outcomes

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