Guide to Datasets for Research and Policymaking in Child Care and Early Education

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This guide is an annotated bibliography of available large-scale databases that provide information useful to researchers, policymakers, state administrators, and others concerned about child care and early education. The guide follows an ecological approach to research and policy in the field: it brings attention not only to children, but to the different contexts in which they grow and develop. The aim is to promote research and decisionmaking that take into account the interrelations among those contexts and their impacts on children. For each dataset, this guide provides information on the study design and specific data it contains on the use and characteristics of child care and early education, as well as on child, family, household, school, and community characteristics. *

Datasets are included in this guide if they are publicly available, are part of a major research project or data collection effort, focus primarily on child care and early education, shed light on any of the contexts in which children develop, and allow users to create estimates at the national, regional, and/or state level. Also included are data collections containing information on any constraint around the use and/or provision of child care and early education (for example, how parents balance work and child care, and how access to child care affects their decisions regarding work and employment, and vice versa).

The template for dataset profiles is based on a review of the data collection instruments of most of the datasets covered in this document. The profiles combine user-friendly text descriptions of the general characteristics of the dataset (such as, purpose, design, periodicity, data available, data type, population, unit of observation, period coverage), with yes/no checks as to whether the dataset contains information in specific areas (such as, data are available for the following age groups: infants and toddlers [1-2]; preschoolers [3-5]; early childhood [6-8]; late childhood [9-12]).

Profiles are organized around the following topics:

  • Children and Child Development: Includes children’s characteristics, intellectual and socioemotional development, emergent literacy and numeracy, academic performance, special needs, and services received related to their special needs.
  • Parents and Families: Types of child care and early education arrangement used, factors associated with their selection, and their duration and stability, characteristics of the parents, the family, the home environment, and the neighborhood and community.
  • Provider Workforce and Market: Characteristics of the child care and early education market, the providers as organizations (type of provider, organization and classroom characteristics, professional development and training, interaction with parents), and providers as individuals.
  • Programs, Interventions, and Curricula: Characteristics of programs, such as accreditation, enrollment, curricula, and quality.

Profiles also identify the authors, researchers, data collectors, and funders, as well as resources in the Child Care and Early Education Research Connections collection ( based on the particular dataset.

By clicking on the link(s) under the heading Availability URL, readers may access the web page in Research Connections or other web sites from which datasets may be downloaded.

* There is no one inventory of existing databases that allows researchers, policymakers, and others to become familiar with data available, understand the breadth of information, the specific characteristics of each database, and the extent of comparability of data, as well as to access these resources. The most prominent compendia are: Brown, Brett, Zaslow, Martha, & Weitzman, Michael (2006). Studying and tracking early child development from a health perspective: A review of available data sources. (Washington, DC: Child Trends); Zill, Nicholas, & Daly, Margaret (1993). Researching the family: A guide to survey and statistics. (Washington, DC: Child Trends); and Peterson, James L. (1985). A compendium and review of information sources on children in poverty. (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Education). None of the above resources focuses on child care and education. These guides are outdated, except for Brown and Zaslow’s, which focuses on data relevant to children’s health.

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