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Monitoring the Future Study


Monitoring the Future (MTF) is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of U.S. secondary school students, college students, and young adults. MTF surveys a sample of high school seniors, 10th graders, and 8th graders selected to be representative of all seniors, 10th graders, and 8th graders in public and private high schools in the United States.

National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse
Data Years Available: 
1975-present for 12th grade students; 1991-present for 8th and 10th grade students
Mode of Collection: 
Self-administered questionnaires are completed in the classroom and provided to representatives of the Institute for Social Research.
Selected Content: 
Lifetime, annual, and 30-day prevalence of use of specific illegal drugs, inhalants, tobacco, and alcohol. Data are also collected on usage levels, frequency of use, perceived risks, and opinions about availability of substances.
Population Covered: 
Seniors, 10th graders, and 8th graders in U.S. public and private high schools

The survey design is a multistage random sample, with stage 1 being a selection of particular geographic areas, stage 2 being selection of one or more schools in each area, and stage 3 being selection of classes within each school. The survey is conducted by representatives of the Institute for Social Research; data are collected using self-administered questionnaires completed in the classroom. Dropouts and students who are absent on the day of the survey are excluded.

Response Rates and Sample Size: 

In 2008, a total of 46,348 students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades in 386 secondary schools were surveyed. Response rates were 79%, 88% and 90% for 12th, 10th, and 8th graders, respectively. Absentees constitute virtually all of the nonresponding students.

Interpretation Issues: 

Estimates of substance use among youth based on the MTF are not comparable with those based on other surveys (e.g., the National Survey of Drug Use and Health and the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System) because of differences in populations covered, sample design, questionnaires, and interview setting.


National Center for Health Statistics. Health United States 2009: With Special Feature on Medical Technology. Hyattsville, Maryland. 2010; pp 457-458.