Early Learning Study at Harvard

The Early Learning Study at Harvard is a large-scale, population-based study that examines children's development in the context of their learning experiences.


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Household Survey in progress!

Our researchers may be your neighborhood handing out brochures
and introducing the study.
If you get a flyer on your door, please contact us to learn more
about this important research.
You can reach us at:
Toll-free ELS@H Line: 1-888-738-6663 





To deliver on the promise and potential of early education at scale, we need to bring the science of early learning up-to-date in two major ways. First, the science must match the demographics of today’s children, given increasing immigration rates and the linguistic and economic diversity among the U.S. population. Second, we need to capture the variety of settings in which children are learning and growing. Only then are we positioned to address the big questions and concerns facing the field, including that of “fade out”—the observation that positive effects of exposure to high-quality early education are not maintained through the school years—and those of scale, including what models work, for whom, and under what conditions.

Our Key Questions

  • What learning outcomes and developmental gains can we expect from early learning environments? Which of these outcomes are particularly sensitive to high-quality environments and how do they vary by characteristics of the population?

  • What are the features of early schooling that maintain and multiply the benefits of preschool? What practices undermine those benefits?

Our Approach


Public health framework

This study is a population-based investigation within the state of Massachusetts aimed at capturing representative samples of both children and the settings in which they are cared for and educated.


Longitudinal methodology

The study begins with a cohort of three-year-olds and follows them through elementary school, and, aspirationally, through to adulthood.


Comprehensive measurement

We are examining key domains of learning and development, including cognition, social-emotional skills and competencies, language, and neuro-physiology. Simultaneously, we are examining the nature and quality of the settings where children spend their time.

Our Advisors

Daphna Bassok
Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy
Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

David Francis
Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair
University of Houston

Deborah Phillips
Professor of Psychology
Georgetown University

Sean Reardon
Professor of Poverty and Inequality in Education
Stanford Graduate School of Education

Marty Zaslow
Director of the Office for Policy and Communications
Society for Research in Child Development 


Research Stories