The PSID began in 1968 with a nationally representative sample of over 18,000 individuals living in 5,000 families in the United States. Information on these individuals and their descendants has been obtained through various data collection efforts, which we call studies.

Main Interview
One person per family is interviewed on a regular basis. Between 1968 and 1997, interviews were conducted annually. Since then, interviews have been biennial. Information about each family member is collected, but much greater detail is obtained about the head and, if married/cohabitating, spouse or long-term cohabitor. Survey content changes to reflect evolving scientific and policy priorities, although many content areas are consistently measured since 1968. Information includes employment, income, wealth, expenditures, health, education, marriage, childbearing, philanthropy, and numerous other topics.
  Child Development Supplement
In 1997 information on PSID children ages 0-12 was obtained through extensive interviews with the child, their primary caregiver, secondary caregiver, absent parent, teacher, and school administrator. Information was collected again in 2002/2003 and 2007/2008 for children in this cohort who remained under 18. Information includes a broad array of developmental outcomes including physical health, emotional well-being, intellectual and academic achievement, cognitive ability, social relationships with family and peers, time diaries, and much more.
  Transition into Adulthood
When children in the CDS cohort are older than 18 and have left high school, information is obtained about their circumstances through a telephone interview completed shortly after the Main Interview. This study, called Transition into Adulthood, has been implemented in 2005, and biennially thereafter. Information includes measures of time use, psychological functioning, marriage, family, responsibilities, employment and income, education and career goals, health, social environment, religiosity, and outlook on life.
 
Disability and Use of Time
DUST collected information from roughly 400 older couples about disability, time use, and well-being during telephone interviews conducted shortly after the 2009 Main Interview. Heads and spouses in these couples were each interviewed twice about two randomly selected days—one week day and one weekend day. Information was obtained using time diaries about what respondents did, where they were, who did the activities with them, who else was there, how they felt, and for household and care-related activities, for whom the activity was carried out. Diaries also include more detailed measures of well-being for 3 randomly selected activities per diary. Information was also collected about the respondent’s health, functioning, well-being, and stylized time use and participation measures.
  Validation Study
This study was designed to assess the quality of cross-sectional and over-time economic data obtained in the PSID. The first wave of the Validation Study was conducted in 1983 and a second wave was conducted in 1987. The standard PSID questionnaire was administered to a sample drawn from a single large manufacturing firm. Questionnaire results were compared to company records to verify respondents' answers to questions such as hours worked, sick time taken, periods of unemployment, and changes of position within the company.
  Calendar Methods Study
The goal of this study was to compare the data quality of retrospective reports on social and economic variables using traditional standardized question-list (Q-list) interviewing methods versus event history calendar (EHC) interviewing methods. Interviews were collected in 1998 via telephone with a random subset of PSID sample members and questions from the 1997 PSID Main Interview. Two conditions were tested, a Q-list condition (n = 307; 84.1% response rate), and an EHC condition (n = 309; 84.4% response rate).