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ELS@H: Cutting-Edge Research Is Informing the Early Education Field


  • Most early childhood research efforts have focused on learning in formal programs.
  • ELS@H includes a large representative sample of 3- and 4-year olds and the formal and informal providers who care for them.
  • The study is yielding important insights about young children’s development and early learning settings.
The Challenge

Early education researchers and policymakers are trying to understand and build on the benefits of early learning programs. But much of the research dates to the 1960s and 1970s and doesn’t capture the diversity of today’s population and care settings. New research is needed to identify the short- and long-term effects of early learning experiences—from social, emotional, and cognitive and how they link to adult success—so that we can  make informed investments in today’s children. 

The Approach

Abt and Harvard researchers are conducting an ambitious study to follow about 5,000 representative 3- and 4-year-olds over time.  The Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) will follow children who participate in a variety of early learning settings in Massachusetts. The study will examine experiences that can be measured across all types of care settings. Findings will focus on relationships between children’s development and early learning experiences.  

The Results

ELS@H is working to update early learning science to ensure it applies to—and encompasses the variety of—today’s demographics and the settings where young children spend time. The scope of the study addresses many of the big questions and concerns facing the field at scale, including what models work, for whom, and under what conditions.

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