Next Steps Age 31 Sweep

Sweep details

Sweep status In development
Dates 2021 - 2022
Age 31
Respondents Cohort members
Data access

Plans are to make the data available via the UK Data Service in 2023


The Age 31 Sweep will involve a 60 minute survey. It will be carried out via sequential mixed-mode (web, face-to-face and telephone). We are considering the inclusion of a direct measure of cognitive skills. It will include some questions on childhood circumstances. Consents to data linkage will also be included.

The Age 31 Sweep is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Consultation timetable
Phase Date(s)
Online consultation 16 October - 11 December 2019
Consultative conference 14 January 2020
Consultation on first draft questionnaire 21 August – 9 September 2020

Scientific consultation

Next Steps is a longitudinal cohort study, following a nationally representative group of nearly 16,000 people born in England in 1989-1990. The aim of the Age 31 Sweep is to provide data for research and policy on the lives of this generation of adults in their early 30s.

CLS sought input on the scientific content of the Age 31 Sweep through an open online consultation in October-December 2019 and a consultative conference in January 2020. The aim of this open consultation was to help ensure that the data collected at age 31 is high quality and addresses key research and policy questions. A consultation on the first draft questionnaire ran from 21 August – 9 September 2020.

Please note that not all of the content in the first draft questionnaire will be retained as cuts will be necessary to meet the target interview length.

The first draft questionnaire is available on request. Please contact us for further details.

Life at age 31

By age 31, many more of the cohort will have experienced important life transitions in relation to work and careers, education and training, partnerships and children and their housing situation. However, pathways to adulthood have also grown more varied and complex for this generation. For example, rather than making straightforward transitions from education to work, and to independent living and family formation, this generation of adults are now more likely to oscillate between education and work, between living at home and independently and may delay family formation as a result.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the lives of this generation.

The Age 31 Sweep will collect also information on many wider aspects of cohort members’ lives including health and wellbeing, politics and social participation, identity and attitudes and non-cognitive skills.

The study aims to cover a wide range of disciplines, including population health and epidemiology, economics, sociology, demography, psychology and others. It has the potential to inform a wide range of policies including relating to labour market, education and health.

The scientific themes for the Age 31 Sweep are detailed below, including topic coverage and key priorities and considerations.

For more information on the contents of previous sweeps, see:


Scientific themes

Labour market experiences, education, income and assets

Topic coverage

This theme includes topics such as economic activity, income, wealth, savings, debts, benefits, assets and housing, future plans, job satisfaction, job security, working conditions, autonomy measures, educational attainment, intergenerational social and income mobility, housing tenure, living conditions and housing aspirations.

Key priorities and considerations

It will be crucial to collect information on the labour market experiences of this generation, as they move through their working lives during a period when the’ gig economy’ is growing, when automation and artificial intelligence are changing the nature of work, and the economic and political environment may lead to more instability and insecurity in employment. Issues such as labour market demand and working conditions will be of great importance, so too will pervasive issues of discrimination. How should we measure these experiences?

At this life stage the Next Steps cohort will be moving towards more stable employment, in order to explain what predicts high/low status we will consider the measurement of economic activity histories, productivity, job satisfaction, income, job security and autonomy measures. Moreover we will be well placed to measure intergenerational social and income mobility. Capturing these measures will document the changing labour market including levels of insecurity of employment, participation in the gig economy and trends towards automation, and provide evidence about their impact on the lives of this generation. We welcome your thoughts on measures to include.

It may also be important to include measures of labour supply, including the skills of a generation, human capital accumulation, education, training and career progression and planning. We invite you to give feedback on the types of skills, training and qualifications we should try to measure.

For this generation – often dubbed ‘Generation Rent’ – finding affordable and high quality housing is a growing challenge, particularly in some geographical areas, with concerns around housing costs and supply, as well as insecurity of tenure and poor quality in the rental sector, particularly for younger generations featuring prominently in social and political debate. It will be important to understand their attitudes to housing, current situation and aspirations including deposits, savings, endowments; housing histories (retrospective housing transitions, when first moved out of family home, renting, sharing, first bought a home etc.). Moreover we can capture aspects of wealth accumulation, including savings, anticipating inheritance and pension contributions.

Health and wellbeing

Topic coverage

This theme includes topics such as general and physical health, risk taking behaviours (alcohol, drugs, smoking, vaping), exercise, diet, health conditions, mental health, wellbeing, loneliness, trust, and resilience.

Key priorities and considerations

Health and wellbeing will continue to be a major priority area, and we would expect to continue to broaden the scientific content in this area from adolescence to adulthood.

Mental ill health is of the most pervasive public health challenges facing us all, accounting for one fifth of our total disease burden. Mental health, including the impact of digital technologies and social media, and obesity, as well as health-related and risky behaviours will be covered in depth in Next Steps age 32 to identify patterns of the incidence of mental ill health and mechanisms which drive these over time. We will aim to collect information on the mental health of cohort members (these may include malaise, strengths and difficulties, depression and General Health Questionnaire – we welcome your input) to enable ease of comparability across cohort and over time and to enable harmonisation and calibration studies. Moreover we will aim to include some socio-emotional measures to capture loneliness, resilience, risk, trust and personality (e.g. the big-5), how should we prioritise these? What protective or ameliorating factors might we want to include in the study?

In relation to physical health, we will ask behavioural questions regarding health-related and risky behaviours such as smoking, drinking alcohol, drug-use, diet and exercise, for example. What health conditions should be measured for this age group? Should we try to include direct measures of obesity and physical activity? What measures should we include to establish the patterns of behaviour which are associated with current and later health risks.

Cognitive and non-cognitive skills

Topic coverage

This theme includes topics such as adult skills, maths, financial literacy, verbal reasoning etc. (cognitive skills) and motivation, decision-making, logic, reasoning, flexibility, communication and likability (non-cognitive skills).

Key priorities and considerations

Collecting information on the skills that the cohort member has in their thirties will enable researchers to identify associations related to income, education, the family and human capital accumulation. These skills measures may also form the baseline for tracking skills accumulation and decline over the life course as Next Steps move through adulthood. These skills may include crystalized skills (verbal and numeric intelligence); fluid cognition (e.g. executive function; short-term memory; reaction time; solving novel reasoning problems and is correlated with comprehension, problem solving and learning); everyday cognition including intellectual stimulation, what you read, watch, listen to etc.; or domain specific tests: IT skills, logic, reasoning, financial literacy and maths. Alternatively we may be interested in actual labour market skills, such as ability to prioritise tasks. What type of skills do you think we should measure? What specific tools should we use for measurement?

There is a growing body of evidence that shows the importance of non-cognitive skills for success in education and the labour market. Do you think it is useful to include measures which will help us to identify how non-cognitive skills will they change over the life course? These skills may include aspects such as flexibility, resilience, confidence and motivation. How should we define and measure them?

Politics, identity and social participation

Topic coverage

This theme includes topics such as ethnic/gender/religious/political identities, self-efficacy, civic participation and engagement, social cohesion, trust, voting preference and behaviour.

Key priorities and considerations

It will be important to capture the changing nature of political and social participation for this generation, as well as attitudes and values, in particular trust in government and civic institutions in an era of political turbulence and globalisation. Is it important to measure civic participation (volunteering, community engagement, political engagement etc.) or are measures of political engagement more valuable? These may include measures of political engagement (e.g. political activities; party membership; electoral registration; voting; protest; knowledge about parties/politics/parliament; satisfaction with the system of government; political efficacy; political trust). Is it useful to measure how strongly people identify with a particular political party?

The development and fluidity of individual identities and the manner in which they negotiate these identities within a globalised and digital world will also be an important area, in particular in relation to gender identities and sexual orientation, as well as national, ethnic and religious identities. We aim to be able to address how individual identities are formed and how they influence labour market trajectories and life satisfaction. We are interested in whether you think it is useful to measure the extent to which people use social media to shape their identities and crucially, how do you think we should capture this information.

Relationships, families and intra-household dynamics

Topic coverage

This theme includes topics such as relationship quality, relationship histories, assortative mating, cohabitation, financial arrangements, parent and sibling relationships, children and childcare, fertility preferences and experiences (miscarriage, IVF, adoption, abortion), parenting practices and school choices.

Key priorities and considerations

In relation to demography and family formation, the major transitions to adulthood such as forming stable partnerships, having children and home ownership are likely to take place later for this generation, and mapping the interconnectedness of these demographic transitions over time for this generation will be an important priority. The shape and form of families is increasingly varied and there has been a rise in complex family structures (e.g. beanpole families, extended kin (outside of the family), blended families, older parents, families in distress, single parent families, stepfamilies, single-sex parents).It is important to capture this heterogeneity and explore the consequences of different family forms. It will be important to capture information about parenthood, including the role of fathers. A s a significant minority of the cohort, particularly men, are likely to be living apart from some of their children, it is likely to be important to collect information on family separation and the experience of non-resident parents.

We will aim to capture measures about relationship dynamics, including relationship satisfaction and relationship quality. The formation and dissolution of cohabiting and romantic relationships will be important at this life stage and we will collect information on relationship duration, quality and information on partners to identify the extent of assortative mating. Diverse relationships including sexual experimentation, polyamory etc. in addition to capturing relationship quality among romantic partnerships, platonic and multiple partners may also be included – we welcome your thoughts on this.  We will also include measures for family and household dynamics and family structure.  We will aim to capture the plans or postponement of parenthood and fertility including IVF, adoption, abortion, miscarriage and the choice to be childfree. Moreover we will capture information on the children of those born to Next Steps members to better understand the intergenerational dimension and early parenting behaviours, such as how many children, age spacing, childcare choices, schooling choices and parenting style. We value your input on the specific value of asking these types of questions and the specific measures that you would like us to include.

Contact us

Centre for Longitudinal Studies
UCL Social Research Institute

20 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AL