Pennsylvania Youth Survey

Since 1989, the Commonwealth has conducted a survey of school students in the 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades to learn about their behavior, attitudes and knowledge concerning alcohol, tobacco, other drugs and violence. The ‘Pennsylvania Youth Survey,’ or PAYS, is sponsored and conducted every two years by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). As of 2013 PAYS is offered at no cost to all public, private, and charter schools throughout the Commonwealth, through the financial support provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), and PCCD.

The data gathered in PAYS serve two primary needs. First, the results provide school administrators, state agency directors, legislators and others with critical information concerning the changes in patterns of the use and abuse of these harmful substances and behaviors. Second, the survey assesses risk factors that are related to these behaviors and the protective factors that help guard against them. This information allows community leaders to direct prevention resources to areas where they are likely to have the greatest impact.

Have a question about the PAYS? You can submit a question to EPIS directly.

  • Use PAYS data:  If you are just starting this process, going through your PAYS report can be a daunting but very important task. To help get started, we've created a PAYS How-to Guide and Workbook, along with other supplemental materials that will assist you with understanding and utilizing PAYS data.
  • Sign up for the PAYS
    • No Cost: The Pennsylvania Youth Survey is provided at no cost through a partnership between PA’s Department of Education, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, and the PA Commission on  Crime and Delinquency. 
    • Anonymous: The survey is anonymously administered to students in 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grades every other year
    • The PAYS assesses strengths and protective factors, not just problems
    • Big picture data from the PAYS helps PA policy makers understands the needs of youth and families statewide and target funding where it will make the most difference.
    • For additional information, contact Geoff Kolchin of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency at (717) 265-8483 or

The PAYS is similar in some ways to the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, but with some important differences. See how they compare.