Early Learning Study at Harvard

The Early Learning Study at Harvard is a population-based study that examines children's development in the context of their early education and care settings.


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For participating families: Please update your contact information and send us your questions.

Have you moved or changed your phone number or email address?
Do you have questions about the study?
Please use the link below to share your new contact information and questions with us. That way, you can continue to be part of our study of how young children learn and grow across Massachusetts.

Need to get in touch with us? Use the phone number and email below.

Toll-free ELS@H Line: 1-844-865-2196 

FAQs for Study Families

Brochure for Study Families



General FAQs



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 will we be 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 are the patterns of early education and care across the state for three- and four-year-olds? What combinations of formal (such as preschools, Head Start centers, and pre-K classrooms in public schools) and informal care (such as care from relatives) are families using for their preschool children?

  • 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 features of early schooling predict whether the benefits of preschool will be maintained or multiplied?

Our Approach


Public health framework

This is a population-based study within the state of Massachusetts; the study involves a representative sample of both children and the settings in which they are receiving their early education and care.


Population-based methodology

The study begins with a cohort of three- and four-year-olds that is representative on demographic indicators (e.g. language, ethnicity, family income) of all three- and four-year-olds across Massachusetts.


Comprehensive measurement

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

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

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


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